Ageism legislation fails to change attitudes

Nov 21 2006 by Brian Amble Print This Article

New legislation recently introduced in Britain to outlaw age discrimination may have encourage employers to change their policies, but it has done little to change mindsets or alter attitudes towards either older or younger workers.

Despite the fact that almost nine out of 10 organisations claim to have introduced or changed their policies and practices to comply with the legislation which came into effect on October 1, almost a quarter still do not have an age discrimination policy and barely more than half provide training to managers with regard to age discrimination.

That's according to the latest findings from the Recruitment Confidence Index (RCI), produced by Cranfield School of Management, which suggest that organisations still have a long way to go to eliminate age discrimination.

The research revealed that more than one in seven HR managers are not aware of current discriminatory policies and practices within their organisation, while over a quarter could not confirm that their Board or senior management were fully committed to eliminating age discrimination at work.

Stereotypical attitudes towards both older and younger workers were also prevalent among HR professionals and senior managers who completed the survey, with discrimination perceived as being most likely to occur in recruitment and selection.

Older workers were seen as being less likely to grasp new technology and less able to accept new ideas, as well as having better time keeping, being more likely to think before they act and being more loyal, conscientious, reliable and dependable.

Younger workers were seen as enthusiastic and ambitious but also inexperienced, more likely to take time off sick, and less likely to stay in the job long.

Nevertheless, respondents acknowledged that a workforce that includes people of all ages offers access to wider skills and experience, a more flexible workforce and reduced recruitment difficulties.

A third of respondents claimed to have experienced some form of discrimination themselves, with a quarter having being discriminated against for being too young.

"These results give particular cause for concern as the respondents are HR managers, who should be responsible for championing the elimination of age discrimination within organisations," pointed out Dr Emma Parry, Research Fellow at Cranfield School of Management, said:

"The results also demonstrate that the creation of policies regarding age discrimination is not enough. Training and education programmes are needed in order to address these attitudes and the discrimination that is commonly associated with them."