With a projected one in four people in the UK over the age of 60 by the year 2024; and reports suggesting that around ten million over-50s were working last year, it is a given that an ageing population will be a major feature of employment in the years to come. However, two recent reports highlight some of the difficulties currently facing older workers.

Centre for Ageing Better: Becoming an age–friendly employer

The report published by the Centre for Ageing Better includes the results of a recent YouGov poll which suggests that older employees are feeling discriminated against because of their age. The survey interviewed over 1,100 people aged 50+ in employment. Amongst its findings were:

  • Since turning 50, 14% of employees believe that they have been unsuccessful in applying for a job because of their age;
  • One in five have considered concealing their age in applications;
  • 32% believe they have been offered fewer opportunities for training and progression compared to younger employees;
  • One in five feels that others see them as less capable because of their age;
  • While 40% of employees aged 50+ think their workplace has a policy related to preventing age discrimination, nearly half of these people (47%) say it has made no difference.

The report states that unless practices change employers risk losing their most experienced people and facing labour and skills shortages. The Centre for Ageing Better is encouraging employers to adopt five steps to ensure they are ready for an ageing workforce:

  1. Be flexible about flexible working: Offer more flexibility, manage it well and help people know their options
  2. Hire age-positively: Actively target candidates of all ages, and minimise age bias in recruitment processes
  3. Ensure everyone has the health support they need: Enable early and open conversations, and early and sustained access to support for workers with health conditions
  4. Encourage career development at all ages: Provide opportunities for people to develop their careers and plan for the future at mid-life and beyond
  5. Create an age-positive culture: Equip HR professionals and managers to promote an age-positive culture, and support interaction and networking among staff of all ages

Women and Equalities Committee Report: Older people and employment

These conclusions follow a report from the Women and Equalities Committee published in July 2018 into age discrimination at work. It claimed that more than a million people aged over 50 are not having their talents realised in both recruitment and retention, and that both the government and the Equality and Human Rights Commission are failing to enforce the law on age discrimination. Among the main points in the report were that an unconscious bias exists surrounding the capabilities of older employees, particularly in this digital era, and that inflexible working practices do not support an older workforce.

The report made a number of recommendations that focused on collecting data from a recruitment perspective, such as the age profiles of job seekers and those finding work. It also presses the government to consider implementing regulations requiring mandatory publication of age profiles of employees for employers with more than 250 staff – akin to the introduction of the gender pay gap reporting requirements.

Both the Committee Report and YouGov poll serve as a reminder of the need to take steps to prevent age discrimination and of the consequences of failing to support an ageing workforce.