Is Age Discrimination at Work a Serious Problem?
May 19, 2009
Hot topic age discrimination Last month, Channel 4’s Dispatches programme exposed the problem of age discrimination in the workplace. The law states employees can be forced to retire at age 65 without any explanation from their employer, but 25% feel employers should have the right to force employees to retire at 65. Dispatches claimed 67% of 1,000 employees who were forced to retire did not want to. Out only 12% of employees aged 35 or younger think staff over 35 are good for productivity. So, considering Britain’s ageing population, is age discrimination in the workplace a serious problem?
Author of Worker’s Woes*
Channel 4’s Dispatches programme on age discrimination was of great interest to me as I have certainly been subjected to it, but the views expressed by the under-35 age group are disturbing. Older people (over 45) offer a great deal of experience and are unlikely to be looking for the ‘next move’ the young things are longing for. Older workers are settled and want to be part of a stable environment. I feel there is an outdated view of older people: we are not the ‘fuddy duddy’ types of my parents’ generation. I used to work in the graphic design industry and I am sure I have been discriminated against. It tends to be younger people who work at these businesses. If they hold the view expressed in Dispatches then I am well past my sell-by date. Recently I had an interview where the employer foolishly said her company doesn’t usually employ people my age; the company was staffed with younger people and she asked if I would feel comfortable. I didn’t get the job and I am not sure why I was interviewed. Perhaps it was to be seen to be doing the right thing.
Read Worker’s Woes each week at www.community.hrmagazine.co.uk
Head of resourcing Grant Thornton
The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations that came into force on 1 October 2006 required HR professionals to review with fresh eyes their approach to the selection and recruitment process. However, there is no reason to think this posed a headache for HR directors. Indeed it was quite the reverse as now a wider variety of candidates are available to apply for positions. We actively work to have a breadth of experience at Grant Thornton to enable us to provide a successful service offering to our clients and to differentiate ourselves as a business. This includes the diverse age range of our employees. We do not place an age limit on applications for our graduate scheme – for example, we have an employee who joined the scheme at 44 after a successful career with the RAF. We have employees continuing to work past retirement where the individual requests it, and there is a business case to support it. We have a policy that allows us to review this on a case-by-case basis. The option to work flexibly can provide older workers with the opportunity to continue working in a way that suits their lifestyle.
Employment partner Kingsley Napley
Sixty-five is too young for people to be retired. They lose their right to continue working and, in the current economic climate could have insignificant pension arrangements. The sad truth is 65-year- olds may have at least 10 years of work left in them, but they may not have 20-years-worth of money.As we have an ageing population and employers have a mechanism to get rid of them at age 65, we will be left with a raft of people who have to rely on the Government for support through their retirement. This is a huge waste of potential. Rather than employers thinking a younger more ‘vibrant’ workforce will be more productive, they should remember a mix of ‘vitality’ and older experienced knowledge could work well together. I think, in a lot of cases, employers do not even know they are discriminating by age. If we were talking about race discrimination or gender discrimination, it would be thought of as abhorrent and age discrimination is not yet regarded in this way. Maybe in the future it will be. There is no reason why older workers should not be permitted to continue to progress in their career.
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