Age discrimination is ‘holding workers back’

Almost half of workers believe their age would hold them back when applying for a job – and nearly one in seven think they have been turned down for work due to their age.

Research from the Centre for Ageing Better also found that 18% of workers have hidden or have considered hiding their age when applying for a job since they turned 50. Around a third felt they had been offered fewer opportunities for training and progression.

The charity is calling for employers to be more inclusive of older workers, particularly when many organisations face skills shortages and a shortfall of younger candidates available to replace older and more experienced employees.

It estimates that halving the “employment gap” between workers aged 50 to state pension age and those in their late 40s could increase UK GDP by up to £20 billion per year, through increased tax revenue and a lower welfare bill. There were over 10 million over-50s in the workplace last year.

The Centre’s research found that, while 40% of employees over the age of 50 were aware of their employer having a policy on age discrimination, 47% said it made no difference. Only 28% felt they could speak to a manager about career plans or adjusting their current role, for example by moving to more flexible hours or staging retirement.

Already, nearly one in three workers is over 50, and employers must face up to the realities of an ageing population. Workplaces have to catch up with the seismic demographic change we are experiencing” – Aviva CEO Andy Briggs

Patrick Thomson, senior programme manager at the Centre said: “With job vacancies and numbers in work both at record levels, employers must act now to attract and retain skilled older workers or they will fall behind their competitors.

“Employers risk losing their most experienced people and face labour and skills shortages. Every employer needs to become more age-friendly and take steps today to ensure they have a workforce for the future.”

Earlier this year, insurance company Aviva published research that revealed that more than half of over-50s feel unsupported at work, despite the fact that two-thirds planned to retire later than they had expected a decade ago.

Commenting on the Centre for Ageing Better’s research, Aviva CEO Andy Briggs (the government’s business champion for older workers), said the findings should serve as a “wake-up call” to employers.

“As life expectancy continues to rise, working patterns and career development will keep on changing as well.

“Already, nearly one in three workers is over 50, and employers must face up to the realities of an ageing population. Workplaces have to catch up with the seismic demographic change we are experiencing,” he said. “Everybody must be supported to continually develop their skills and contribute their knowledge and experience over a much longer working life.”

The charity’s report includes a number of practical pointers for employers in how to become more inclusive of older workers. These include:

  • Being more flexible about working patterns: employers should work harder to help people know their options
  • Hiring “age positively”: actively target candidates of all ages and minimise age bias in recruitment processes
  • Health support: enable early and open conversations about health conditions and access to support
  • Career development for all ages: provide opportunities for employees to develop their careers at mid-life and beyond
  • Creating an age positive culture: support interaction and networking between staff of all ages and equip HR and managers to sustain this culture.

5 Responses to Age discrimination is ‘holding workers back’

  1. Avatar
    Eamonn 14 Sep 2018 at 6:22 pm #

    How very true this is
    I’m in my 50’s and have been in IT for 25 years
    I get contacted every week from employers and agents with opportunities, but as soon as I arrive at the interview and they see me, I am out the door within 30 minutes
    I have a CV to die for but after 30 interviews this year I still don’t have a job.
    They think that I will not listen to younger people…. wrong
    They think I won’t pass on my knowledge…. wrong
    They think I will be off work sick all the time…. wrong
    Just don’t know what to do next 😩

    • Avatar
      Garry Peter Royle 24 Oct 2018 at 3:52 pm #

      I agree with you, I am having a similar experience to you and I to have a really good CV. The only thing that is wrong with me is that I am in my 50’s. I can almost see the expressions on people’s faces now and know that they will come up with some trumped up reason that my application was not successful.

      It seems that age discrimination is well and truly entrenched in the UK and in my experience it seems to affect men over 50 even more than women.


  2. Avatar
    Sarah 26 Apr 2019 at 8:35 am #

    I am 54 and was recently looking for a new sales role due to possible redundancy. I experienced similar with recruiters actively contacting me due to good experience and a good CV. Once at the interview i could see the environment was much younger and could anticipate what was coming next.
    The recent interview feedback was i would not transition into the job as quickly as the other interviewees. I could have done the job with my eyes closed! As it turns out, thankfully my current job role is safe from redundancy for which i am very grateful.

  3. Avatar
    Roma Beckett 28 May 2019 at 4:44 pm #

    I took voluntary redundancy at 56 seven years ago, took six months off and started looking for work in the September. Thankfully I quickly got a job and haven’t been out of work since. I started my current role in May 2018. When I told my employer I wanted to retire this year as I am 63, she has done everything to enable me to remain at work. I’ve now reduced my working week to three days and am very happy.

    I think I am one of the lucky ones

  4. Avatar
    Paul 23 Feb 2021 at 8:41 am #

    I could not agree more and sympathise more with Eamonn. Ageism is rife in recruitment. Similar story, made redundant last October at 57. I have never had such a problem finding a role as Im experiencing now. Yesterday, half way through the interview, I was asked when I’m looking to retire!! It is truly appalling given the stats that younger persons will leave job to move on in 3 -5 years whereas older employees will want to be part of an organisation on an average of 5-10 years.

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