Over 55s still face workplace ageism, says report

Older job seekers are more likely to face bias from younger recruiters

According to a new study, a majority (68%)of over-55s feel the job market is closed to them despite one in four wanting to work into their 80s.

The study, entitled “Shut out, forced out and overlooked”, was commissioned by 55/Redefined, a business helping over-55s find high-value job opportunities, and older workers charity ProAge.

The study found that for currently employed over-55s, 64% were not getting leadership training, while a third have “lost interest in their job due to lack of development opportunities.” Additional findings included 24% of over-55s who felt “forced to retire before they wanted to.” Furthermore, when it comes to applying for roles, 60% of respondents believed it is difficult to apply for a job in their chosen career.

The study also revealed discrimination against older workers at the recruitment stage, where only 24% of HR leaders aged 25-30 were “very willing or motivated to recruit workers aged 55–75,” which is a stark contrast to the 63% of older HR leaders aged 46-50, showing that recruiter age could have an impact on age bias when hiring for roles.

The topic of younger workers and women being impacted by COVID-19 via mass redundancies and accounting for many of those put on furlough has been well covered. Recent, however, ONS data has revealed that over-50s found they were “more likely to experience reductions in working hours and accounted for more than a quarter of the 1.3m people furloughed.” Furthermore, three in 10 over-50s on furlough believe there is a chance they will lose their job when furlough ends.

Lyndsey Simpson, founder and CEO at 55/Redefined, said: “Our research reveals that over 55s want to work and progress but feel shut out, forced out, or overlooked when it comes to their later life careers. Ageism is clearly still a reality for many. At a time when we are all living and working longer, it is in all our interests to stamp out this unfair and unacceptable discrimination.

“Worryingly, our study found that age discrimination is being perpetuated by the people that control HR policy and standards. This could perhaps be an unintended consequence of focusing exclusively on other protected diversity and inclusion characteristics.

“By 2050, the under-55 working-age population will have shrunk by around 20% in Western countries. Pair this with the impact of the pandemic, which is disproportionately and adversely affecting older individuals, and we’ve got a serious shortfall in the workforce. The population of over 60s in the same timeframe will grow by 40%, so forward-thinking firms that tackle ageism and capitalise on the value of older workers now will be the winners.”

5 tips to tackle workplace ageism

Despite the statistics from the report revealing that businesses have more to do to make older workers feel they belong, 28% of the 200 employers surveyed said that staff over the age of 55 “are not thought of any differently to younger employees.” However, for companies that do need advice, Redefined and ProAge have published five tips for employers looking to attract and retain older workers below:

  • Be bias active – Understand the level of bias that exists already in your organisation against age and deliver training and insight whilst taking action to address misplaced stereotypes or the unintended consequences of focusing on other diversity areas.
  • Flex appeal – Encourage people to stay in the workforce for longer by creating new flexible roles that appeal to this over-55 talent pool. These could be permanent roles at three or four days per week, through to rehiring retired professionals for key periods of the year on flexible contracts.
  • The will to skill – Invest in technical training and reskilling of this age group including current and new employees. Create schemes targeting this age group or hire cohorts of over-55s for in-demand roles that require technical or industry training.
  • Change tack – Stop hiring on previous experience and technical fit, instead focusing on soft skills, behaviour, motivation, and cultural fit criteria. Support hiring managers to make this transition by creating new ways of recruiting and assessing talent that help encourage inclusivity for all.
  • Engage the age – Get to know your existing over-55 workforce and be proactive in asking them what they want and how best you can support them to remain engaged in work for longer.

To download the full report, please click here.

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