Experiences of ageism in the workplace are still a serious issue.
More than a third of people in the UK have experienced some form of ageism in the workplace, and nearly two thirds of older employees have concerns around being discriminated against due to their age. During the course of the pandemic, unemployment increased by a third for the over-50s group and by three quarters for the over-65s group, meaning they were among the hardest hit.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act was passed in 1967 and has since meant employers cannot discriminate against employees based on their age when it comes to recruiting, firing, workload and allocation and promotions. ACAS states specifically that an employer must not deny an employee promotion because of their age or perceived age, or because of the age of someone they are associated with.
With the number of people aged between 50 to 70 due to rise to 13.8 million by next year, and the concept of ‘unretirement’ becoming more of a reality – the Government Equalities Office found 25 per cent of retirees return to the workforce – it begs the question: Why is there still an air of ageism among UK workplaces, and how can it be tackled?
Start at square one.
Business leaders can enhance their hiring and interview processes by putting in place guidelines to ensure there is no opportunity for bias or discrimination to take place. For example, company job specifications and advertisements should be crafted to ensure that they are inclusive by avoiding gender or age-focussed language. Businesses should look to advertise these opportunities across various channels in order to seek out diverse talent.
It’s also crucial that businesses adopt inclusive recruitment strategies: INvolve has established trainings such as Inclusive Recruitment, targeted towards those with hiring responsibilities to support them in making consciously inclusive decisions. By seeking to making recruitment processes more inclusive, businesses would be taking the first step towards ensuring people of all ages have the same opportunities.
The interview process should be created with consistent questions across the board so all candidates and applicants are treated equally. ACAS says interviewers should be well trained to know how to avoid asking discriminatory questions and making assumptions. Taking a behavioural approach to interviewing, which includes performance and experience-based questions, determines the candidate’s pratical suitability for the role and standardises the process.
For continued career growth, development, and access to opportunity, it’s vital for employees to be upskilled and have the necessary skillset in order to fulfil their tasks and compete in an ever-competitive job market. However, for career returners or perhaps due to generational gaps some employees may not have the skills required or fall short of the criteria needed for a job.
While it’s important for employees to drive their own learning, businesses and their leaders should also ensure workplaces offer adequate training opportunities for all staff of all ages to ensure their skills remain relevant. Retraining opportunities for staff not only benefit their career path but the company’s bottom line by having more highly skilled and empathetic employee base.
Welcome in a multigenerational workforce.
The older workforce holds a wealth of maturity, knowledge and professionalism. The variety of skills and experience many hold are invaluable and can be no match to career newbies. Businesses would be wise to tap into this talent by launching multigenerational workplaces which create a collaborative hub of diverse ideas and perspectives. With the retirement age increasing further, it isn’t unrealistic to expect those in their twenties now may well be working into their eighties – and it’s likely they will want their future younger colleagues to welcome them with open arms.
To combat the stigma around ‘older workers’, normalise the concept of multigenerational offices and create truly inclusive working environments, businesses must educate their staff and implement policies that tackle discrimination and encourage collaboration.
Businesses need to eliminate the notion that older workers want to slow down. Now more than ever, they want to be part of the workforce, and businesses will do well to use their skills and expertise. As every one of us face longer life expectancy, it’s time we start tackling ageism in the workplace, for the older workers of today and for the future generations.