Age still a barrier to employment in many firms

Oct 19 2004 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Businesses are proving reluctant to employ older workers, amid warnings such stubborn attitudes are unsustainable.

Research from recruitment firm Spring Personnel has suggested that, despite clear evidence of changing population demographics, some 63 per cent of UK businesses say they are not planning actively to recruit from the over-50 age group.

Recent figures from the Employers’ Forum on Age have predicted that workers aged between 45 and 59 will be the single largest group in the labour force by 2006 – the year when age discrimination legislation finally arrives on the statute book.

The unwillingness of businesses to employ older workers is also costing the UK economy dear.

A report in September by the National Audit Office found that fewer than one in seven of over-50s are in work, compared with 75 per cent of those under 50, a disparity that is costing the country £31 billion a year.

Spring group chief executive Richard Barfield warned that if companies could not be persuaded to take on the over-50s, the Government had little chance of keeping more people in employment until they are over 70.

This, along with compulsory saving, is one option being considered by ministers following last week’s publication of Turner Commission report into the future of pension provision in this country.

Barfield said: ‘Unless employers can be persuaded of the benefits of using older people in the workforce, then the pensions black hole of £57 billion is going to get bigger.’

And David Millican, manager of corporate communications are Xerox, which makes a point of trying to employ older workers, said such attitudes just would not be sustainable in the long term.

"Your workforce needs to reflect your customer base as a whole," he told Management Issues.