Ageism in the workplace is perpetuated by prejudice

Ageism is forgotten as organisations focus on other protected DE&I characteristics

Ageism arises in the UK workplace, and age bias is perpetuated by HR departments and younger HR managers who are less willing to champion the ageing workforce

This is according to the report ‘Shut Out, Forced Out and Overlooked’, which highlights the prevalence of ageism in the UK workplace, commissioned by the over-50s platform 55/Redefined and the charity ProAge. 

When asked how motivated they were to hire people aged 55-75, less than a quarter (24%) of HR managers aged 25-30 said ‘very’, compared to 63% of respondents aged 46-50, reflecting a 39% variation in the tendency to recruit older workers based on their age. 

A lot of prejudices

Beyond age bias, and although workers in their 20s are twice as likely to take sick leave as their older colleagues, 37% of employers cited health or illness as a major concern in recruiting 55-75-year-olds. In comparison, a fifth (21%) of employers cited ‘lack of energy’ as a disadvantage to recruiting the over-55s. 

In fact, 65% of 55-75-year-olds feel that the labour market is closed to them and almost a quarter (24%) had felt forced to retire before they wanted to. However, 56% of employees want to continue working beyond age 65, and 90% believe they have the transferable skills to change sectors or jobs.

Another report from HR DataHub, an organisation that provides technology-based HR information and advice to employers, has also noted that age as a diversity and inclusion (D&I) characteristic is being overlooked by HR departments

According to its Outlook 2022 report, only 9%, or less than one in 10 HR, D&I, compensation and human resources professionals, including 12 FTSE100 members, disclose age data externally, and more than two-thirds (67%) say they have no plans to do so in the future.

Lyndsey Simpson, founder and CEO of 55/Redefined, said: “It is clear that age discrimination is being perpetrated by those who control HR policy and standards. This could perhaps be an unintended consequence of an imbalance in attention to other protected characteristics of diversity and inclusion. HR leaders and CEOs need to address this as a matter of urgency, realising the talent and ambitions of older people to end age bias in the workplace.”

David Whitfield, CEO and co-founder of HR DataHub, added: “It’s astonishing that so many of the UK’s largest organisations have no plans to report on age, especially as this data is so readily available to all.

“Organisations that fail to eradicate ageism will not only miss out on a huge pool of talent but will also fail to create a truly fair and equitable workplace. The ultimate risk will come from stakeholder responsibility. 

“In recent years, there has been increasing pressure to advance other protected D&I characteristics, such as ethnicity, LGBTQ+ and gender. While there is no denying the importance of this work, as a result, age has been avoided.”

Collect data

To help HR leaders, people managers, and D&I practitioners eradicate ageism in the workplace, HR DataHub has partnered with 55/Redfined to enable organisations across all sectors to objectively collect and measure their age data and benchmark it via the HR DataHub D&I Index. They can set meaningful targets and implement the changes needed to eradicate ageism in the workplace.

Whitfield said, “D&I data is not only essential for organisations to understand the extent of their problem, but it also helps create a plan to address it, which is where 55/Redfined’s expertise is essential. Together we will enable organisations to identify and eliminate the damaging aspects of ageism and create age-inclusive workplaces.”

Simpson continued: “Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to understanding your workforce. At a time when the working age population is shrinking, and the over 60s are increasing, age must be a priority. At a time when we are all living and working longer, it is in all our interests to eradicate this unfair and unacceptable discrimination.”

In this article, you learned that: 

  • The stark contrast in attitudes towards the 50+ workforce between younger and older HR managers.
  • Energy is seen as something that only those under 30 have
  • 65% of 55-75-year-olds feel that the labour market is closed to them
  • More than two-thirds (67%) of senior HR, D&I, compensation and personnel managers do not intend to report on age diversity externally 

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