Is the Government failing mature workers?
We’re an ageing population and have a unique opportunity to have more than one career in a lifetime. From vet to photographer, stock broker to teacher, the world is our oyster. Or is it? Whether it’s a career change or simply the need to work longer because we’re living longer, it should be a level playing field.
But sadly, it seems that age discrimination is still rife in the labour market.
According to Age UK in an article published earlier this year, the number of older workers is on the rise, but their research found that 36% of 55-64 year olds feel like they’ve been treated unfairly or disadvantaged because they were perceived as being older. They also found that there’s gender inequality too, with 50+ women more likely to work in lower skilled jobs than 50+ men.
According to the Government’s ‘Older people and employment’ report from the Women and Equalities Committee published earlier this year, the nation is wasting the skilled talents of more than 1 million people aged over 50 who currently don’t work, but would if the right opportunity was available.
People in their later years are often playing many different roles in life, often including caring for an elderly parent or relative and even providing childcare for grandchildren, so their own children can work. The need for flexibility is often prominent and there should be no barriers surrounding this, or age.
How is this happening? Discrimination was made unlawful more than 18 years ago. Under the Equality Act 2010, prejudice, unconscious bias and casual ageism in the workplace are all unlawful. But, quite simply, at the moment, too little is being done to enforce that law. Neither the Government or the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is getting involved in the recruitment sector.
There’s clearly a business case for an age-diverse workforce. If the Government isn’t doing anything, should employers be taking a stand? Creating the environment for an age-diverse workplace will be a challenge for some businesses, particularly small businesses that don’t have dedicated HR representatives, but now is the time to make a stand and make a change. Experience is everything, so surely it makes sense for employers to embrace the opportunities, knowledge and insight that an older workforce can bring?
Have you been affected by, or know anybody who has been affected by age prejudice in the workforce? Please share your stories with us…