Bosses need wake-up call on workplace ageism

When the government minister responsible for the age discrimination laws admits that ageism is endemic in society and it’s going to take a long time to change, you know it’s going to be an uphill struggle.

Employment relations minister Jim Fitzpatrick says that the mere act of making ageism illegal won’t automatically eliminate it from the workplace. Certainly, HR departments are well aware that culture change doesn’t happen overnight.

But while HR may appreciate that an age-diverse workforce can bring huge benefits to the business, the same can’t be said for the majority of UK managers.

As figures from the latest Recruitment Confidence Index show, senior managers and the board are not sufficiently bothered about it. In fact, only one in 10 top bosses is making it a priority.

There will be a degree of nervousness about the age regulations until we have case law. And clearly, no-one wants to be the first to end up in tribunal because of their ageist practices – inadvertent or otherwise.

The main problem is that moves to address ageism (or other kinds of discrimination) are often perceived as tick-box exercises. So as well as hearing about the ban on jokey birthday cards, and the avoidance of potentially discriminatory language in job ads [unenthusiastic, non-dynamic job applicant, anyone?], we want to hear about boards making a decision to put diversity at the heart of how they do business.

And the winner is… You

There are just two days to go until the most prestigious event in the HR calendar: the Personnel Today Awards 2006. Tickets for the event sold out three months ago, so it’s all set to be a fantastic night.

You can find out who has won the Awards by going to this Friday (24 November), while next week’s issue of Personnel Today will have pictures of the ceremony at the Grosvenor House. We look forward to celebrating with the winners.

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