As reported by the BBC, a survey by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) found that only 42% of managers are open to hiring individuals aged 50 to 64. This poses a risk of age discrimination in the workplace and restricts employment for jobseekers in that age range.
According to the Equality Act 2010, age is one of the protected characteristics. This means that it is unlawful to discriminate against employees based on their age. However, with findings showing that employers prefer younger talent, experiencing age discrimination is possible.
In an environment where many industries are facing worker shortages, being discriminative towards certain age groups may complicate the situation. The hesitation to hire older employees may lead to the discouragement of older candidates to seek employment. Ultimately, it has been mentioned by the CMI that this may lead to a waste of talent.
An Aging Population
Based on the most recent census data, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has stated that the UK has an ageing population. In the 2021 census, over 11 million individuals or 18.6% of the population were aged 65 years old or older. This number is an increase compared to the 2011 census which was 16.4%. Additionally, the median age in England and Wales was 40 years in 2021.
Seeing that the older generation makes up a significant proportion of the population, changes in economic activity within the age group will ultimately affect the labour market. This has then been further impacted by the pandemic, which has led many older workers to become economically inactive.
It is unlawful to discriminate based on age in the workplace, but often these issues are not addressed in workplace DEI programmes. According to a report by the CMI, 36% of individuals aged between 50 – 69 expressed their worries about being disadvantaged when applying for jobs. This feeling is large because they assume that they will be treated differently because of their mature age.
Amongst individuals who have expressed that they feel older workers are underrepresented, it was reported by the CMI that 95% of them said that their organisations were not proactively recruiting older workers or did not know of any initiatives from their employers.
Improving Age Diversity and Inclusion
There have been some recommended actions for employers to take to improve diversity and inclusion for older workers. These include:
- Using inclusive language in job adverts
- Providing guidance and support for older employees, which includes retirement schemes
- Skills development initiatives to help older employees retrain and reskill to adapt to changing workplaces
- Comprehensive mentoring programmes to promote intergenerational collaboration in the workplace
- Solidifying employee networks to boost inclusivity across the board
It is worth remembering that the UK has an ageing population, which can be a focus to strategize on how to improve the labour market and economy. Multigenerational workplaces can benefit from the diverse perspectives of the employees, which can provide more nuance and capabilities for businesses. However, there is still a lot for UK employers to do to improve age inclusivity and diversity in general. With many older employees deterred from employment, it is important to be inclusive to allow them to access opportunities.