UK Workforce | Avoiding age discrimination whilst recruiting and retaining older staff

Avoiding age discrimination whilst recruiting and retaining older staff

A growing proportion of the UK workforce is over 50 years of age. People are living longer than ever before and with the current economic state, may not be financially able to retire at a time when they originally wanted to. So, how can employers support a generation of older people remaining in the workforce?

Although many companies embrace their older workers and appreciate their experience, a recent Tribunal case – Jones v Tango Networks UK Ltd and P Hesketh – indicates that not all companies are of the same opinion.

The case

Mr Jones was awarded £71,441.36 for unfair dismissal and age discrimination. In a nutshell, the case involved Mr Jones being criticised by a line manager about his performance. When returning from leave and a short period of sickness, he was asked to attend a performance appraisal. He suggested that this was arranged not because of his performance, but due to his age (late 50’s). He subsequently raised a grievance, which was not successful. However, the Tribunal said that the grievance hadn’t been dealt with correctly and that there was no objective evidence that he was not meeting his sales targets.

There were also comments which had been made about wanting a high energy, youthful and energetic sales team and that they didn’t want a team of bald-headed 50-year-old men.

So, how can you avoid ending up in a Tribunal?

In terms of retaining older employees, the Royal College of Psychiatrists say that being employed provides a range of psychosocial benefits such as a sense of social identity and status, a means of structuring and occupying yourself as well as a sense of personal achievement.

However, for older people in particular, your workplace should have supportive line managers, good working relationships and a non-ageist or non-ableist work environment.

Not meeting these requirements can cause mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and depression and can be a reason why older people opt to work fewer hours or to leave work completely. Others may leave because they have an age-related illness or a decline in their health which isn’t considered by the management to be acceptable.

To retain employees, regardless of their age, you should promote good mental health and wellbeing into your everyday routine.

In addition, introducing training for line managers will increase their knowledge and confidence so that they can proactively support older workers. Ideally this training would include detailed guidance on how to deal with ageism and ableism.

You could also offer flexible working so that older people who may have anxiety or depression are able to find a working pattern that meets both their needs and the company’s needs.

The introduction of mental health first aiders would also be seen as a positive step forward for the workforce, not just the older employees. (What is Mental Health First Aider)

Recruiting older people

There is no doubt that people over 50 feel that they are at a disadvantage when applying for jobs, due to their age.

To ensure that you are offering a fair playing field, make sure that your advertisement doesn’t use words such as ‘youthful and energetic’ or ‘at least two years’ experience’ as this may indicate that you are looking for a younger person, so a more experienced person may not apply.

When interviewing, do you have a list of questions which you ask to everyone? It would be useful to have an interview panel which consists of people of varying ages. This hopefully indicates that you are not ageist.

Some of the advantages of employing older people are they normally remain in jobs longer and their experience and knowledge gets shared with the younger employees. In addition, your company reputation increases as you can show that you are committed to the principles of equal opportunities, diversity and inclusion by ensuring that all age groups are represented in your company.

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