Plain common sense: Employers launch campaign to promote age diversity


Some of Britain’s largest employers have launched a campaign to encourage businesses to abandon their prejudices about what makes a ‘younger’ or ‘older’ worker and realise the business benefits of employing a mixed aged workforce.

The Employers Forum on Age launched the initiative on 24 January with some of the UK’s leading employers including BT, Barclays, GlaxoSmithKline, Sainsbury’s, Halifax and Nationwide.

The Business Case for Age Diversity, developed by the Employers Forum on Age, is based on plain common sense and urges firms to abandon their prejudices and gain a competitive and financial advantage, benefiting from:

  • Cutting costs by improving staff retention
  • Better customer relations
  • Retained corporate knowledge
  • Better understanding of the market
  • Access to a wider labour market

Ms Sam Mercer, campaign director of the Employers Forum on Age, says: “The Business Case for Age Diversity is designed to help firms adapt successfully to new markets, and keep them aligned with evolving legislation and social trends. As the workforce ages and contracts, skilled workers will increasingly come at a premium. Companies that fail to respond to this threat will put their future growth and profitability at risk, while missing out on the benefits of greater age diversity.”

Caroline Waters, head of diversity at BT, says: ‘In BT, because we feel that the commercial benefits of mixed age teams present such a compelling argument for age diversity, we believe we have created an organisation of well balanced, highly motivated teams which – because they have the right mixture of skills, experience and potential – maximise our business opportunities in an ever changing market.’ Denise Walker, head of personnel at Nationwide, comments: ‘Nationwide have costed benefits from lower turnover. With age diverse recruitment we have seen turnover drop in the under 25 and over 55 age groups. The turnover for employees at both ends of the age spectrum is four per cent, compared to 10.37 per cent for the Building Society. Replacement costs – recruiting and training – for a member of staff is between £5,000 and £8,000. This means that in the last financial year Nationwide estimates we have saved over £7 million.’

By 2006, the UK must introduce anti-age discrimination laws. In the USA, where similar laws have existed for several years, a fifth of all discrimination claims are based on age. Between 1988 and 1995, people claiming age discrimination were awarded an average of $219,000, compared to $147,799 for race discrimination and $106,728 for sex discrimination.

The Employers Forum on Age (EFA) is the first ever employer-led initiative to promote the business benefits of an age diverse workforce.

It has over 160 member organisations that collectively employ over three million people (more than 14 per cent of the workforce) in the UK. Employers can join the EFA by calling Freda Line on tel: 020 8765 7596

The EFA’s full age diversity business case is available at