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Age Discrimination

| Duncan & Toplis | 23 March 2019

In February 2019 ACAS produced their latest guide focused on Age Discrimination and key points for employers. Age is one of the nine protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010, protecting people of all ages from discrimination.

Despite this legislation recent research from CV library shows a staggering 70.8% of UK workers revealed discrimination around age is common in their workplace, rising to 85.3% amongst those aged 55-64.

This type of discrimination generally happens during day to day management, promotion and training and also significantly through recruitment. Evidence suggests under 25s feel they are considered too young, over 55s too old and females in the middle are equally overlooked for being at a stage where children may be on the horizon.

Some employers may consider they are sifting out applicants to get the best performers when in fact this type of discrimination or bias massively limits the talent pool in an already very competitive environment.

The reality is our population is ageing with more and more employees working well into their 70s. People are now living much longer and by 2030 we will have four generations working side by side. It’s vital for employers to act now and consider the effect this will have on their own organisations, how they can avoid discrimination and benefit from a diverse workforce.

The ACAS guide reminds employers of their legal obligations which provide day one protection for employees as well as job applicants. Discrimination either direct, indirect, harassment or victimisation can lead to expensive tribunal claims against employers. Cost is a significant factor but the benefit of a diverse workforce makes overall good business sense with evidence suggesting more productive teams, higher profits and increased attraction and retention of employees.

As part of their report ACAS looked at a number of myths around employing people of different ages, as stereotyping due to age is often one of the most common types of discrimination.

Some of these are as follows:

Myth: Some employers think older employees are more likely to be off work ill.

Fact: Research shows sickness absence rates are similar across all age groups.

Myth: Older people staying in work stops young people getting a job.

Fact: There is no evidence for this. Forecasts suggest older employees will be needed to stay in work.

Myth: The performance of employees tails off as they get older.

Fact: Research shows there is no deterioration in performance in most types of work at least until 70. But what does make a difference is whether older employees get the same training as younger colleagues.

Myth: An employer is unlikely to get investment back in training employees over 55 and under 25 as they are both likely to move on in the near future.

Fact: As technology moves ever faster, most skill sets need updating frequently while the shelf-life of training to get there gets less and less. So all employees, no matter what their age, and the organisation too, are likely to benefit from training.

So what can employers do to move towards a more diverse workforce when considering age? The starting point is undoubtedly policies and practices particularly around recruitment, training, promotion, pay and terms and conditions. These should be reviewed to ensure they are robust with a transparent approach that managers are equipped to use. Training for employees around diversity is essential as is bias training for managers and the need to set clear goals and communicating the benefit of a diverse workforce.

There are many more steps employers can take to avoid discrimination and gain the benefits of a diverse workforce. Duncan & Toplis HR Team can provide full support including training and policies and procedures so please do contact us should you wish to chat through solutions for your business.

The full ACAS report can be found here: www.acas.org.uk/agediscrimination

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