‘Older workers facing redundancy risk being shut out of employment’

A new report highlights how employers who think they are promoting diversity and inclusion seem to have a blind spot when it comes to age.

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Employers are failing to identify and tackle potential age bias in their recruitment process and many employers don’t even see it as a problem, according to a new report.

The new report by the Centre for Ageing Better based on research by the Institute for Employment Studies, found some employers said age bias in the recruitment process was not a problem showed negative views of older people, such as older workers ‘having poor IT skills’ or looking ‘worn-out.’

Ageing Better estimates that more than 400,000 over 50s could be made redundant when the furlough scheme ends and it fears ageism in the recruitment process could exacerbate an unemployment crisis for over 50s in the year ahead.

The report found that, despite many employers stating diversity and inclusion were important to them, few had strategies or approaches specifically aimed at making the recruitment process more diverse and inclusive in the context of age. If employers did consider age in recruitment, it was often in the context of recruiting young workers.

It found no evidence that employers use approaches specifically aimed at de-biasing the recruitment process for older workers and found very little evidence that employers evaluate the effectiveness of initiatives that are meant to reduce discrimination more generally, such as ‘language decoding’ tools (which are usually aimed at reducing discrimination based on gender by highlighting words like ‘ambitious’ or ‘confident’ which can be off-putting to women).

The report outlines practical steps that employers could take to make recruitment more age-inclusive as well as actions to avoid. Job descriptions that use potentially ageist language, not collecting age-related data or using this kind of data to inform decision-making, an emphasis on the ‘cultural fit’ of candidates, unstructured interviews and ageist stereotyping could all disadvantage older workers in the recruitment process, according to the report.

Anna Dixon, Chief Executive at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “The labour market is changing rapidly. Not only is there rising unemployment as a result of Covid and the lockdown, but the average age of today’s workforce is rising too. Today, one third of workers are aged over 50 and this is set to increase rapidly in the years to come. And yet many employers are missing out on the experience and skills of older workers because they face age-bias in the hiring process – despite age being a protected characteristic under the law.

“Our new report finds that many employers don’t regard age-bias as a problem, and over 50s could be facing disadvantages in the hiring process. With hundreds of thousands of over 50s at risk of job losses as a result of the pandemic, it’s crucial that these workers aren’t shut out of finding new jobs by ageism in the recruitment process.”

*workingwise.co.uk is publishing new detailed research on ageism in the workplace next week. Look out for the results.



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