This week’s letters

Employers should give the older workforce a chance

I have a 30-year HR career building businesses in the finance, IT and
telecoms sectors in the UK, continental European and Asian markets. My role was
made redundant and I hit 50 at around the same time.

For the first time, I actively sought a job and aimed for a ‘head of HR’
role in a medium-sized business, or a director in a larger organisation.

Armed with guidance and advice from an outplacement firm, I built my
marketing plan, networked and attacked the market for both interim and
permanent roles.

I was particularly unprepared for one specific response to my enquiries – I
was too old. I had naively concluded my age wouldn’t be a problem. After all,
successful businesses look for talent irrespective of race, sexual orientation,
religious conviction, age etc. Don’t they?

I guess there are genuine underlying reasons for this discrimination. I
might have to leave the company bash to catch the last train home. Then again,
I might also manage to get some sleep over a weekend, and be slightly less
irritable than my younger colleagues most Mondays, which surely illustrates a
lack of team spirit. I might even have the occasional opinion that may
challenge a perceived wisdom. That would get me labelled as ‘set in my ways’,
and veering towards inflexibility.

Because I was ‘elderly’, I would be totally unaware of (and to be honest,
uninterested in) swiftly forming and dissolving relationships and sexual
tensions within the department, and there my judgement would almost surely be
impeded. As for my powers of concentrationÉ well, I’m not sure I can recall
where I was going with that last point!

Based on this analysis, maybe there is legitimate reason for practising age
discrimination while recruiting.

I have to admit, there has been great sensitivity employed when drawing the
problem of my age to my attention. Here are a few of the more ‘creative’
explanations as to why my applications didn’t succeed:

– ‘The client was looking for someone at an earlier stage of their career’

– ‘The client was looking for someone who was more mouldable’

– ‘The client was looking for an up and comer, not someone who was already

– ‘Most organisations would tend to recruit newer talent’

– ‘There isn’t enough clear space between your profile and the boss’s’

– ‘We have decided to go for someone who has longer-term possibilities’
(good grief! Better take a closer look at the last medical report).

Poetic, but frustrating. Based on my experiences, anti-ageism legislation
can’t come soon enough.

Ian Clabby
Details supplied

Youth is not the only key to a skills crisis

In his column, John Connolly highlighted the contraction of the EU’s
working-age population – a reduction of 40 million people in the next 50 years
(Professional agenda, 4 May). But his assumption that the only solution to our
shrinking workforce is to invest increasingly more in younger people is

We need to extend working age and better utilise the workforces we already
have. There is a pool of older, talented and experienced people who continue to
be excluded from the labour market. More than a million people aged 50-64 would
work if they could, and many over 65 would perhaps like the opportunity to
continue working.

Of course, there must be investment in the education and training of young people,
but Connolly fails to acknowledge that the traditional employment model of a
job for life and retiring to make way for fresh blood is well past its sell-by
date. Employers and the Government must ensure that the whole workforce has the
skills needed for work, whatever their age.

Sam Mercer
Director, The Employers Forum on Age

Flexible work is not just a parental issue

The article ‘Childcare? What Childcare?’ (25 May) rightly identifies a
barrier to retaining and attracting good staff who might otherwise fall into
the ‘Bermuda Triangle’ of parenthood. But childcare isn’t just about crèche
provision or nursery vouchers.

Certainly, at pre-school stage, parents want to maximise their time with
their children and their income for childcare provision. However, once they
start school, pick-up times and long holidays dictate a different flexible
working formula, and after the move to secondary school, those requirements
change again.

Employers should start to look at the client requirements of their business
and think creatively around a 24/7 – or at least 24/5 – scenario. The
traditional nine-to-five mindset suits very few as a rigid structure,
particularly where companies operate across different time zones. Re-engineered
hours – and team-based, rather than dictated solutions – can increase both
flexibility and better service the needs of the business.

Employers need to study their business culture, and make it less rigid and
more open to change. The workplace has changed dramatically in the past five
years, and smart employers will understand that change is on-going. The
evolving requirements of their staff and clients means that flexibility is the
only constant. Don’t make this an issue only for parents.

Carol Savage
Managing director, Flexecutive.co.uk

Perseverance is the way to get on in HR

I read Melanie Callaghan’s letter (Letters, 11 May) with interest.

I too, found it extremely difficult to get my foot in the proverbial HR
door, after completing a degree in business administration. Perseverance was my
middle name for a good while after I left university, but I am glad to say that
it paid off, and after starting (and self-funding) my CIPD course in people
management and development, I managed to find a job as an HR assistant at the
University of Central Lancashire.

It has proved to be the best move I ever made and I just wanted to assure
people that it possible to progress up the HR ladder. You just have to keep at
it and it will happen – eventually.

Congratulations to Personnel Today for producing a fabulous magazine. I
thoroughly enjoy reading it every week!

Liz Bush
HR assistant, University of Central Lancashire

Bogus data fee scam sets sights on h&s

Following your past coverage of the scam of organisations receiving demands
for payment for bogus data protection registration, they have now moved on to
health and safety.

We have just received a letter from something called the ‘Health &
Safety Registration Enforcement Division, Rochdale’. It states we are not
registered as being compliant with the Health & Safety Act 1974, and
therefore risk up to two years imprisonment per offence, disqualification of
directors and unlimited fines. To avoid such actions, we should return a form
with a registration fee of £199 if we are compliant, or £249 if we feel we are
not! Evidently, yet another scam is trying to make a fast buck from employers
who are not fully aware of the legislation.

Steve Chilcott
HR manager ,Octavia Housing and Care

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