Freelance

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Jamie Hailstone is a freelance journalist and author, who has also contributed to numerous national business titles including Utility Week, the Municipal Journal, Environment Journal and consumer titles such as Classic Rock.
July 17, 2018

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Age Discrimination

MPs warn age discrimination at work is a ‘serious problem’

Age discrimination in the workplace has become a ‘serious problem’ with the talents of more than a million older people who want to work being wasted, a group of MPs has warned.

The Women and Equalities parliamentary select committee has today (17 July) published a report which warns that people over the age of 50 are being failed by a combination of discrimination, bias and outdated employment practices.

It concludes that Government and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) are failing to enforce the law on age discrimination and must be clearer that prejudice, unconscious bias and casual ageism in the workplace are all unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.

The report claims women are most affected by age discrimination and employers are still organising workplaces are an “outdated, inflexible model that no longer works”.

In order to overcome some of these barriers, the report calls for flexible working to become the “default”, with the public sector taking the lead on adapting to the needs of an ageing workforce.

The chair of the committee, Maria Miller, said age discrimination is a “serious problem” and taking place at an “alarming and totally unacceptable” scale.

“As a country we face serious challenges recruiting and retaining an experienced and skilled workforce,” said Ms Miller.

“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 Despite this, employers continue to organise workplaces around an outdated, inflexible model that this inquiry and our past inquiries into fathers in the workplace and the gender pay gap show no longer works.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, with flexible working being the default from the time jobs are advertised onwards,” she added.

Significant barriers

Age UK’s Charity Director Caroline Abrahams agreed that there are still significant barriers that prevent older workers taking a full part in the labour market.

“When applying for jobs, our research shows that age discrimination is still rife, with 36% of 55-64 year olds feeling like they’ve been disadvantaged or treated negatively because they were perceived as being older,” said Ms Abrahams.

“It’s important to note that while the actual numbers are rising, on average older workers are working fewer hours,” she added.

“Our research suggests this may be less through choice and more a consequence of the changing labour market, but also life factors such as increasing numbers of people with caring responsibilities, many of whom need greater support. There is also gender inequality, with 50+ women more likely to work in lower skilled roles than 50+ men. This often means part-time work, which in turn leads to lower investment in skills, lower pensions, and less access to flexible working as part-time working is not necessarily flexible.”

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