Most UK employers ‘failing to act on ageism’

A new study by the Chartered Management Institute finds a large gap between people’s perception that their employer is age inclusive and their awareness of any proactive steps being taken by the employer.

age bias, ageism at a workplace


The gap between perception that an employer is age inclusive and proactive action on diversity is significantly higher for age than other equality characteristics, according to a Chartered Management Institute [CMI] report.

The report, launched as part of Chartered Management Institute’s 75th anniversary and based on a survey of 2,066 UK employees who were not in managerial roles, found the 85% of those interviewed felt their employer was inclusive when it came to age, although it noted that people were more likely to say that if their work colleagues were similar to them.

However, just 5% of people thought that their organisation was proactively trying to recruit older workers. The report shows that there are many more older workers in the workforce now that in the 1990s, due in part to rising retirement and changes to the state pension age for older women. Forty-three per cent of older workers were not employed in 1995, compared to just 29% in 2021.

The report argues that the UK is wasting a huge amount of talent just when it needs it most to reach its economic and social potential. It calls for the inclusivity agenda to be a central element of UK business, public services and Government strategies for growth and success, saying “we need to ‘level up’ across people, not just places”.

It shows, for instance, that there are 560,000 missing female managers in the UK, and to equal the proportion of females in the UK population by 2026 an additional 800,000 female managers will be needed – an increase of 24% from 2021.

There are also 420,000 missing managers from lower socio-economic backgrounds and an almost 30 percentage point difference between the working age employment rate (81%) and the disability employment rate (57.2%). At management level, CMI’s analysis shows there are 290,000 missing disabled managers.

The report calls on the Government to pursue a more ambitious approach to policy in order to support equality, diversity and inclusion [EDI] across the economy and public services, with better data being key to this. That includes a more permanent and compulsory form of pay gap reporting and mandatory action plans in order to encourage firms to move the dial on all areas of inclusivity.

Other recommendations call for the Government to move beyond a narrow legalistic and regulatory approach, to shine a light on good and bad practice and to use the persuasive power of policy and regulation to encourage innovation. The CMI says this means, choosing not to award lucrative contracts to companies that consistently fail to diversify their leadership teams or to demonstrate their commitment to recognising talent in all its forms including through equal pay; to ensure everyone can benefit from access to flexible working; boost effective management practice; and to hold leaders and companies to account when they fail to act on diversity and inclusion in all its forms.

When it comes to employers, the CMI says managers and leaders should ask challenging questions and pay attention to the answers; plan and track their progress; embrace flexible working; recognise the central role of all managers, not just EDI specialists; and be story-tellers and role models.


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