Sales reps most at risk from ageism

Jan 27 2006 by Nic Paton Print This Article

They are best known for getting a foot in the door, and keeping it there, but when it comes to age discrimination, sales representatives are the most likely workers to lose out the older they get, a new survey has suggested.

Sales reps, who have an average age of just 30, top a league table of occupations believed to be most at risk from age discrimination drawn up employment law experts and HR advisors Croner.

Six out of 10 employers polled by the organisation felt sales reps were most likely to fall foul of age discrimination.

The UK's 1.4 million construction workers follow close behind, voted as being at risk by 50 per cent of the employers polled.

Waiting staff in the hospitality industry, of which four in ten are under 19 years old, came in third.

People whose jobs involved face-to-face customer interaction emerged as being by far the most at risk of age discrimination, with these roles representing three of the top four in the survey.

Customer service staff came in fourth, voted by nearly 30 per cent of the employers polled.

But there was better news for public sector workers, with teachers thought to be at risk of age discrimination by only 13 per cent and nurses by even less, at one in ten.

Cleaners, it appeared, could pick up a mop and duster no matter what their age, voted at risk by just 8 per cent.

The survey was conducted among 10,000 HR directors and managers working in organisations of all sizes in the UK.

It asked them how vulnerable they thought individuals, young or old, were to age discrimination because of their occupation.

Age discrimination laws coming into force in October will make it illegal for age to be a factor in any employment decision, meaning employers will have to judge staff purely on their ability, not their youthful looks or perceived sprightliness.

Richard Smith, employment services director at Croner, believed the new law will come as a shock to some professions, especially those which already lag behind others in employing an age diverse workforce, such as construction and hospitality.

"It's not exactly surprising that jobs considered to be most at risk from age discrimination are those traditionally associated with physical appearance and exertion," he said.

"This is a reflection of our society which links youthfulness to energy, attractiveness - and sometimes even ability.

"But attitudes towards more mature people are changing. This combined with today's longer life expectancy means we now have a new 'older generation' who have just as much to offer society as they ever did. This needs to be recognised in the workplace," he added.

"What this means is that employers, especially those in our high risk professions, need to change the way they think about a candidate's age and ensure that 'too young' or 'too old' is no longer a factor in any employment decision they make, such as hiring and firing," he concluded.