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Ageism still “endemic” in the workplace


Sixteen million workers have claimed to have witnessed ageist behaviour in the workplace in the last 12 months since new age discrimination laws came into force, research has revealed.

The study, by the Employers Forum on Age (EFA), has been released as the UK marks the first anniversary of the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 on 1 October.

The findings revealed that 86 per cent of people are aware it is illegal to discriminate on the grounds of age at work, compared to just 51 per cent this time last year. Yet, 59 per cent have witnessed ageism at work in the last year alone.

Sam Mercer, EFA chief executive, said: “It is great that awareness of age discrimination issues among British adults has increased at an impressive pace since the law was passed 12 months ago. This proves that the laws served a purpose in terms of getting ageism on the radar. However, it is bad news for those employers who are still falling well short of the required standards of practice.”

Retirement seems to be one area where older people are particularly affected. Results showed that 92 per cent of those surveyed believe they should have the right to work for as long as they like, however, 21 per cent said their employer would force them to retire at 65.

Mercer added: “This disparity between employees’ expectations and the flexibility employers are prepared to offer will inevitably lead to tension. It is time for employers to think seriously about following in the footsteps of some leading EFA members and removing mandatory retirement ages.

“Age discrimination laws have been in effect for one year, and good progress has been made in some areas. However, ageist attitudes are still ingrained and changing that culture is a much bigger task, but one which cannot be avoided.”

One Response

  1. Discrimination at work – age, race and maternity?
    I welcome any item that might bring to the atention of employers the requirements of anti-age discrimination; poor employers! (How many other employment regulations do they have to be aware of and comply with?!)

    Being over 50 myself, you might expect me even to applaud anti-age dicrimination in my own self-interests?

    But I don’t. In my experience as an adviser to many boards, apart from pension concerns, age discrimination would appear to be as nothing compared with my observed reluctance of many smaller employers in particular to recruit and then fund new employees who may become pregnant.

    Not that I ever witness this personally, for rather obvious reasons, I hear echos all around me. The most common concerns that I hear are that while it is illegal to ask a prospective employee about their family intentions and circumstances, the cost of funding a pregnant employee, and keeping their job open meanwhile, can be potentially ruinous.

    To my mind, this can only benefit older workers who may consider themselves past child-bearing age. I must confirm that I am all in favour of protecting the employment rights of young parents in principle. I have four adult daughters of my own whose best interests I would dearly wish to protect.

    But that would be a very narrow and self-serving view.

    Would I be alone in perceiving that maternity rights for employees have already gone too far for smaller employers in particular? That’s what I hear and, as with many anti-discrimination issues, the employers concerned are most unlikely to say so for fear of drawing attention to themselves.

    In passing, I have no doubt that some employers may still be racially biased, especially in low-cost, cheap-skate operations, but I have never observed this myself, other than in some of my children’s part-time employment where in fact the racial bias has been reversed. Much more predominantly, I observe professional employers seeking the best recruits they can find, quite independent of gender, race or age, not the least because they have to.

    How does it work for you?


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