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Over-55s Facing Ageism in the Workplace

New research has found that over-55s are feeling the full force of workplace ageism.

Originally appeared in HR review on 9 August 2021. By Megan McElroy

Commissioned by 55/Redefined, the ‘Shut out, forced out and overlooked’ study has found that over-55s feel a lack of optimism about job opportunities, with more than two thirds (68 percent) stating that they feel the job market is closed to them, despite one in four wanting to work into their 80s.

Not only this, but one in four also felt forced to retire before they wanted to, and over half (60 percent) believe that it is difficult applying for a job in their chosen career.

The report also explores the fact that many over-55s feel neglected in the workplace, with two thirds (64 percent) not getting any leadership training.

This has led to a strong sense of apathy, with a third losing interest in their job due to a lack of development opportunities.

In fact, the survey suggests that this ageism may in fact be perpetuated by young leaders within the workplace.

Data shows a tension between older workers and young HR leaders, with less than a quarter (24 percent) of HR leaders aged 25-30 stating they were ‘very’ willing or motivated to recruit workers aged 55-75.

This is a stark contrast to older HR leaders aged 46-50, 63 percent of whom are willing to recruit older workers.

Lyndsey Simpson, founder and CEO at 55/Redefined, said:

Ageism is clearly still a reality for many. At a time when we are all living and working longer, it is in all our interests to stamp out this unfair and unacceptable discrimination.

Worryingly, our study found that age discrimination is being perpetuated by the people that control HR policy and standards.

This could perhaps be an unintended consequence of focusing exclusively on other protected diversity and inclusion characteristics.

The study has offered solutions to put an end to the UK’s growing workplace ageism. The top five recommendations include:

  • Be bias active: understand bias that exists within an organisation and deliver training to address misplaced stereotypes.
  • Flex appeal: create flexible roles that appeal to the over-55 talent pool, such as a four-day week, rehiring retired professionals seasonally or on flexible contracts.
  • The will to skill: Invest in technical training for this age group.
  • Change tack: Stop hiring based on technical fit, start focusing on soft skills, behaviour and motivation, and support hiring managers in this transition.
  • Engage the age: Be proactive in asking the over-55 workforce how they can best be supported.

In relation to implementing these changes, Dominic John, Trustee at ProAge, said:

Businesses must be more age aware; stamping out discrimination and making themselves an attractive employer for older workers to tackle talent shortages and unlock huge economic benefit of this driven and valuable workforce.

*In order to obtain this data, WDG Research sruveyed 257 workers and retirees aged between 55-75 and 202 employers (HR Directors / CEOs) of companies ranging from small 1-10 employees up to large corporates of 5,000 plus employees.