Minority of employers monitor practices for age discrimination, poll finds


Around nine in ten employers do not monitor whether or not managers are hiring people older than themselves, research by Mercer has found.

Mercer’s Age-Friendly Employer research found that 87% of respondents carried out no checks on managers’ hiring practices for ageism, while the 13% that did discovered that more than half do not hire people older than themselves.

It also revealed that 92% of respondents in the recruitment industry had never run an analysis to determine whether or not their clients discriminated on the basis of age.

HR policies and procedures in relation to age also left a lot to be desired, Mercer found.

The majority of companies said that they referenced age in their diversity and inclusion policies, but most did so in relation to retirement only.

Eighty-four percent felt that they needed to change processes, behaviours or both in relation to age, in order to retain older workers in future.

Flexible working was shown to be the most prevalent age-friendly working practice, offered by 81% of respondents, whereas retirement programmes were offered by just over half.

And while 36% analysed absence by age to look at the impact of age-related health conditions, slightly fewer (30%) offered age-specific wellness programmes.

This was despite 43% agreeing that older age groups cost more in terms of health insurance provision.

Just under half (45%) of employers surveyed offered advice and support for those caring for ageing relatives, a growing issue as demographics change.

Yvonne Sonsino, Europe innovation leader at the consulting company, said: “A lack of monitoring around age-related recruitment biases not only means that companies are potentially breaking age discrimination laws, it also means they might be missing out on a wealth of experience and talent that could benefit the business.”

Mercer also found that there were limited examples of age equality checks in other key areas such as pay levels by age, performance grade distribution and training spend.

Active line manager engagement with employees, too, was shown to decline as staff reached their late fifties and sixties.

Sonsino added: “There is a direct impact on engagement and productivity at stake here, and those employers that do [age equality checks] already emphasise how effective they can be.”

Minister for Pensions, Baroness Ros Altmann, said: “This survey shows that there is still more work to be done to encourage recruiters to make the most of the talents of older workers.

“It is in the interests of individuals, employers and the economy to ensure older job applicants are not overlooked, as they have a wealth of experience and valuable skills that can benefit businesses.

“Ensuring mature applicants are considered on their merits rather than written off is vital, especially in our ageing population.”

Mercer’s research draws on data from its own survey of 69 UK employers, figures from the TUC and recruitment company De Poel.

“For HR programmes to meet the needs of multi-generational workforces, recruitment, talent management and job design, retirement savings adequacy, employee education and training, as well as health and wellbeing programmes will need to be reviewed from a new perspective,” Sonsino concluded.

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