Just when retailers thought they could file away the legal paperwork and get on with the job of shopkeeping, here come those nice civil servants with a bit more red tape to keep the HR department on its toes. It is now unlawful for employers to discriminate against someone not only on the grounds of sex, race, creed or colour, but also on age. The new legislation came into force on 1 October and the second part, surrounding pension schemes, is due in December, all in the name of fair play and that old chestnut, equal opportunity.

So what changes do the regulations bring? It is unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of age against those in, or seeking, employment or training, or to harass or victimise on the basis of age. There is also no upper age limit on redundancy rights and unfair dismissal. You used to be able to sack someone for being too old to do their job; now you can't. They have also removed the age limits for statutory sick pay and maternity pay (just in case a 70-year-old wants to have a baby), so now the law applies equally to everyone; and in December they will provide exemptions for many age-based rules in occupational pension schemes.

But is this law really necessary or is it more nanny state interference in a world where once common sense prevailed? Are those with age on their side (obviously, can't say which side) really so hard done by or is this yet another stealth-like excuse for the government to make us all work a lot longer to avert the pensions crisis they helped create in the state and private sector?

Working quite literally till you drop presents new challenges to retail personnel management. Store HR may well in future become ER with perhaps legislation surrounding oxygen in stores to be followed by the mandatory store paramedic 'crash team' complete with defibrillator. Why burden the NHS when they can get employers to pay for it?

Many big retail multiples have been well prepared for this, boasting about the number of over-50s, 60s and even 70s they employ. They are rightly proud of their records on employing older people, but beneath the positive headlines the picture is more complex. Most of the older people in retail work in-store and part-time. You won't find many in the cut and thrust of the marketing and commercial teams.

If you have shopped at B&Q recently and thought the customer service experience similar to having tea with Grandad then you may think the new anti-discrimination laws on ageism are a blast from the past rather than the future. Here, customers are treated to good old-fashioned service from a chap that really knows how to do all those fiddly DIY jobs, even without power tools. But how will the over-60s fare on the shopfloor of Top Shop serving their great-grandchildren?

Most people are focusing on discrimination against senior citizens, but the law applies equally to junior ones. You can't, for example, ask someone their age in an interview or even on an application form. I look forward to the day a spotty 18-year-old with more front than Brighton waltzes in for an interview for the chief exec's job - and you can't turn him down because he's too young.

So do the retailers have much to fear from the change to the law? As with all changes, the biggest impact will be on the smaller businesses that haven't the time or resources to get to grips with the law before it gets to grips with them. But at least I know I can die in my 80s driving trolleys in Morrisons' car park when my pensions can't (or won't) pay out. After all, Ken's still doing it!