Jenny Lincoln, Age Research and Policy Manager, Business in the Community, on why retaining older workers is key for the future of business
Shocking numbers of older workers feel they are being discriminated against because of their age, according to new research published by the Centre for Ageing Better. Nearly half of people over 50 feel they would be at a disadvantage in applying for a job because of their age, and more than 1 in 4 had or had considered concealing their age on an application form.
More shockingly, their perceptions are based in truth; according to a study by Anglia Ruskin University, the older worker is 4.2 times less likely to be invited to interview than their younger counterpart.
Ageism is one of the top reasons driving and keeping people over 50 out of work, alongside poor health and increased caring responsibilities. Age bias against older workers is embedded in workplace processes and culture; once over 50, you are more likely to be made redundant, less likely to be offered training and less likely to be hired. Older workers also face negative stereotypes and perceptions of their skills and capability at work, such as being “overqualified”, yet less innovative and incapable of adapting to change. In fact, our myth-busting factsheet outlines evidence to the contrary.
As the population continues to age, we need more people over 50 in work – and for longer. We need to be able to pay for more pensions, healthcare and social care for more older people, with fewer taxes from fewer people of working age. This also includes getting the missing million people over 50 who are out of work, but would like to be working, back into employment.
Employers are facing growing skills shortages and a shrinking pool of talent, so retaining experienced and committed employees is essential for the future of their business. Challenging an ageist culture and removing ageism from processes is key.
So how can you tackle ageism? It is simple: Look, Listen, Act.
- Look at your workforce data to understand where age bias is seeping into management, redundancy and talent decisions.
- Listen to your employees. Older workers are some of the least heard and most invisible in many workplaces. Take the time to consult with your older workers and learn about their experiences, perceptions, wants and needs.
- Act on what they say. Challenge unacceptable behaviour, attitudes and beliefs and ensure your workplace processes are age-inclusive.