From education to employment

Older workers failed by weak enforcement of age discrimination

Discrimination, bias and outdated employment practices

The talents of more than a million people aged over 50 who want to work are being wasted because of discrimination, bias and outdated employment practices, say The Women and Equalities Committee in their report, “Older people and employment“, published today (17 Jul).

The report also concludes that Government and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) are failing to enforce the law on age discrimination and must be clearer that prejudice, unconscious bias and casual ageism in the workplace are all unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.

Although the Committee concludes that the Government’s employer-led approach has its advantages, it does not present a strong enough challenge to discriminatory practices or attitudes.  

MPs call for the Government to work with the EHRC to agree specific enforcement actions across both the public and private sectors.

Specifically, recruitment agencies should accept greater responsibility for collecting data on where older workers are being excluded and developing a plan of action to remove discrimination from the recruitment process.

Petra Wilton 2018 100x100Petra Wilton, Director of Strategy and External Affairs at the Chartered Management Institute, comments:

“Within the next couple of years there will be five generations working alongside each other in the workforce. So managers will need to be comfortable and competent in managing people who are significantly older and significantly younger.

“The UK needs 1.9 millions new, well trained and highly skilled managers by 2024. So those businesses that succeed in the future will be those that best prepare their managers and leaders for this challenge, who embrace diversity in its broadest sense – recruiting, retaining and developing the best talent regardless of age.

“We already see some businesses investing in re-skilling and up-skilling older workers through apprenticeships, such as management and leadership apprenticeships. Such approaches should be championed and employers encouraged to see apprenticeships as a valuable way to support older workers in the workplace.”

John-Claude Hesketh, Managing Partner at executive search firm, Marlin Hawk, comments:

“While younger generations are indeed increasingly sought-after we’re seeing more clients recognise the value that diversity of thought and experience can bring. 

“Despite the report’s doom and gloom we will actually start to see over the next two-to-three years a real surge in demand for more seasoned leaders within the 50 plus demographic. Employers will begin to take a more pragmatic approach to finding talent bringing the wealth of knowledge and different working methods that those over 50 can offer into their senior management teams.

“If we reflect on where the increasingly tech-focused talent market is going, it’s no real surprise that we’re finding fewer people over the age of 50 within companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon. As new, innovative ways of thinking continue to evolve, it’s natural for employers to look to the new thinkers driving those changes.

“But we are already experiencing an increase in clients specifically asking for ‘veterans’ within certain sectors, such as risk, finance and information security. These roles often require the levels of expertise that come with years of experience. In certain roles, it continues to hold true that experience will trump innovation and blue-sky thinking.”

Serious challenges recruiting and retaining an experienced and skilled workforce

Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, Maria Miller MP, said: 

“Age discrimination in the workplace is a serious problem, as many older people have discovered.

“Yet despite it being unlawful for more than a decade, the scale and lack of enforcement uncovered by our inquiry is both alarming and totally unacceptable. 

“The Government and the EHRC have failed to get to grips with this. They must be more robust in providing a remedy to potentially unlawful working practices in the recruitment sector.

“Strategies such as Fuller Working Lives and the Industrial Strategy are not coordinated and lack any plan to ensure that existing legislation is being implemented and enforced.    

“As a country we face serious challenges recruiting and retaining an experienced and skilled workforce.

“Until we tackle discrimination against the growing number of over 50s, they will continue to be consigned to the ‘too old’ pile instead of being part of the solution. 

“The business case for an age-diverse workforce is clear. Despite this, employers continue to organise workplaces around an outdated, inflexible model that this inquiry and our past inquiries into fathers in the workplace and the gender pay gap show no longer works.

“It’s time for a mandatory approach, with flexible working being the default from the time jobs are advertised onwards.”

Richard Shea100x100Responding to the revelation that Britain is losing nearly £200 billion every year as a result of over-55s being under-employed, Richard Shea, Managing Director, Global Expansion Markets at Futurestep, explains why it’s vital for businesses to tap into the older workforce and how they can go about:

“Both social and economic factors have led to a prolonged working life for a large part of the workforce globally, but Britain is not currently taking advantage of this and tapping into the years of invaluable experience that is on the market.

“It shouldn’t just be down to Government to provide financial incentives to companies to retain older workers. At a time when digital disruption is overturning established markets, there are clear benefits to having the sense of perspective and judgement that a more experienced employee can bring to the room. Having a diverse workforce is the key to being able to look at an issue from different angles and solve problems in distinct ways.”

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