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    From Ros Altmann:economist and pensions,
    investment and retirement policy expert

  • pensionsandsavings.com

    Discrimination against older workers

    Discrimination against older workers

    • Older workers – especially women – face damaging discrimination in the jobs market.
    • Parliamentary Committee calls for action against recruitment industry for breaches of equality law.
    • Many older women excluded from the world of work face poverty as state pension age rises.
    • Calls for improved efforts to Retain, Retrain and Recruit older workers.

    The Commons Women and Equalities Committee inquiry into employment for older people contains damning findings of age discrimination in the workplace. It concludes that ageism in the jobs market, especially for women, remains a significant problem, with many employers and recruiters failing to give them a fair chance of finding work.

    The shocking findings echo those I discovered as Business Champion for Older Workers in 2015-2016. It seems many of the same problems persist, despite the Government’s good intentions to improve employment opportunities for all ages. Retention of older workers has improved somewhat (with record numbers of older people in work), but there are still significant problems in retraining and recruitment.

    This leaves around one million over 50s wanting to work but unable to find a job. Yet increasing numbers of older people – especially women – want or need to work longer as state pension age is rising and traditional pensions are receding. If these workers are just written off by employers, then they will lose the opportunity to improve their later life.

    More older women than ever before tend to be single, and cannot rely on a partner to support them in later life. So, staying in work is often vital to help them avoid poverty in old age.

    This is a huge waste of resources. With an aging population and lower immigration, making the most of home-grown talent is increasingly important. The more older people can keep working, the more their income can be boosted both now and in future. Longer working life also benefits the economy, increasing spending power, which benefits younger people too.

    Employers can help by ensuring their recruitment processes are genuinely age-blind. They can also ensure their older staff are re-skilled, perhaps offering ongoing training, lifelong re-skilling and mid-life career reviews.

    Sometimes, older workers face the dilemma of needing to care for elderly or aging relatives and stop work to look after loved ones. Then, if they want to return to work, discrimination in recruitment can be an insurmountable barrier. This should be illegal, but too often recruiters or employers seem to find ways round the law – or they just disregard it. Yet there have been very few prosecutions for age discrimination. The Committee recommends a tougher approach – making sure that the EHRC and the Government act to protect older people against such bias.

    Enabling older workers to combine work and caring, whether it is part-time, flexi-hours, or time off for caring duties, is important. It can take time to find carers and settle them in, or to move loved ones into a care home. The labour market has adapted well to enabling young women to combine work with childcare, we now need to help employers develop similar strategies for older women (and men) who need to care for loved ones too.

    It’s time to get tough on ageism and ensure older people are treated fairly in the labour market. This is in all our interests.


    3 thoughts on “Discrimination against older workers

    1. I am a good example Ros [although not female!] attaining age 64 with over 45 years in financial services. Employers and agencies see this experience as a threat [he knows more than we do etc.] and only offer self-employed commission only offerings, if you are lucky. I would love to stack-shelves or be a Postie as an employee for a change, but when they see that CV – they don,t want to know.
      Kind regards
      David Wherrit

      1. I totally agree. I have over 25 years experience as an HR professional plus academic related degrees, professional qualifications and the highest CIPD ranking, however, this does help help me as I am told I am ‘over qualified’ for some jobs but not considered for others, I believe, because of my age and experience. The Government should change the law and not allow the ‘Hirer’ whether agencies or organisations to ask for passports, etc., until the appointment stage. After all, the end hirer only has to ensure that the new employee has the right to work in the UK, so why is this check so necessary at job application stage? Some agencies will not even put you forward for work without seeing every detail about you! I believe this practice amounts to indirect discrimination as it works against the older working population who are looking for work by having to reveal their age so early on in the recruitment process. Also, It cannot be regarded as ‘proportionate’ if it prevents older workers from obtaining work. This is especially significant considering the continued rise in the state pension age which is not underpinned by Government support on age discrimination. This area has been ignored for far too long. Big changes needed.

    2. Last year I was being interviewed and mentioned grandchildren. Luckily I don’t look my age but that comment gave it away. Next question was will I want to retire soon. I was 56 so no but from then on they were showing a bias and negativity. It reminded me of when I was 20 and being asked if I was planning a family and marriage so not committed to a future employed. Always being judged

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