Employers need to recruit and retain an age-diverse workforce, but to their detriment, age discrimination remains widespread in workplaces.

According to the findings of a report published by the Women and Equalities Committee, over one million people over the age of 50 are out of work but are willing to do so. This is as a result of age discrimination, bias and outdated employment practices.

This is despite the fact that age discrimination is unlawful under the Equality Act. This covers overt age discriminatory behaviour, but also prejudice, unconscious bias and casual ageism.

So what is going wrong?

In the view of the Women and Equalities Committee, the Government and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) are not enforcing the law on age discrimination.

The report highlights that discrimination during the recruitment process is one of the most significant hurdles that older workers have to face. Other barriers that result in older workers leaving the labour market are health and care duties.

Maria Miller MP Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee said: 

‘As a country, we face serious challenges recruiting and retaining an experienced and skilled workforce. Until we tackle discrimination against the growing number of over 50s, they will continue to be consigned to the ‘too old’ pile instead of being part of the solution. The business case for an age-diverse workforce is clear. Despite this, employers continue to organise workplaces around an outdated, inflexible model that this inquiry and our past inquiries into fathers in the workplace and the gender pay gap show no longer works. It’s time for a mandatory approach…’

What does the Women and Equalities Committee recommend?

Amongst numerous recommendations, here are some of the key ones for employers to note:

  • The government should require all public-sector employers and private and voluntary sector employers with more than 250 staff to make public the age profile of their workforce.
  • There are calls for all jobs to be advertised as flexible except if an employer can show ‘an immediate and continuing business case’ that this is not possible.
  • The government should create a statutory entitlement to five days’ paid carer’s leave and statutory right to four weeks of unpaid carer’s leave per year.

Are you having issues managing older workers?

Find out more about how to manage older workers here or contact your Employment Law Adviser for guidance.

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