Ageism still alive and well

Aug 13 2004 by Brian Amble Print This Article

A new survey has found that almost half of employers have rejected potential new recruits simply because they are too old, underlining just how deep-rooted ageism still is in Britain’s workplaces.

A survey of 873 employers by law firm Peninsula today found that 47 per cent admit to discriminating against older workers during the hiring process.

Only one in five said that they actively hired younger rather than older workers while a third felt that a workforce with a young aggregate age led to more effective business.

Nevertheless, three-said they would ‘consider’ offering a job to a candidate close to retirement age.

The findings echo research carried out earlier this year by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) which found that a third of workers over 50 experienced some form of discrimination at work.

But Peninsula’s Peter Done said that the results actually suggested employers were becoming “more enthusiastic” about employing older workers:

“It would be naïve to believe that a more senior candidate would not be suitable to a business, with time and experience being an invaluable commodity that younger employees will not be able to offer,” he said.

But he added that employers must start to become more aware of age discrimination in the workplace as the December 2006 date for the adoption of the EU Employment Directive – which makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate on grounds of age – grows closer.

While seven out of ten employers say they are unconcerned about the 2006 changes because – so they say - they do not discriminate against older people, Peninsular found that only one in four employers had adopted the government’s Code of Practice on age diversity – now five years old - while only around one in ten monitor age bias in promotion or training decisions. One in six operated an upper age limit on hiring, usually 64 or 65.

According to the Employers Forum on Age (EFA), this complacency could cost employers dear. They have calculated that firms could be exposing themselves to a staggering £73 billion worth of legal claims from 2006 if they are not fully prepared for the new age legislation – which this research suggests they clearly are not.