Charity calls on employers to become more age-friendly to respond to the ageing population
The Centre for Ageing Better has released a new report, ‘Becoming an age-friendly employer,’ which suggests that employers should come up with new ways to recruit, support and retain older workers to respond to the ageing population.
Ageing Better outlines that around one in three workers in the UK are aged 50 and over and that the average worker is in their 40s. However, this number is set to grow over the next decade due to the ageing population, emphasises the charity.
In spite of this, age is not always treated fairly in the workplace, with Ageing Better’s recent research highlighting that many older people feel they would be at a disadvantage when applying for a job due to their age.
Andy Briggs, Chief Executive Officer of Aviva UK Insurance and Government Business Champion for Older Workers, said: “Although age is a protected characteristic, just like gender, race or sexual orientation, many employers don’t treat age discrimination as seriously as these other issues. Recruitment is one area where the bias in favour of younger candidates is most obvious.
“In a survey by the Centre for Ageing Better, nearly half of over 50s currently employed said they felt they would be at a disadvantage in applying for a job because of their age, and over a quarter had or had considered concealing their age on an application form.”
To help tackle this issue, Ageing Better has made five suggestions for employers to help them become an age-friendly employer and make the most out of the opportunity that older employees present to them.
The five actions it proposes are:
1. Offer employees flexible working
This step involves having open discussions with employees about flexible working conditions and negotiating a compatible arrangement. Listening to people’s needs and circumstances is important and can lead to staff staying in employment for longer, the charity says.
2. Eliminate age bias when recruiting by actively targeting candidates of all ages
This means using an array of recruitment techniques to target different audiences. For instance, using pop-up stands in supermarkets or giving talks at local clubs to attract older employees.
Ageing Better also suggests focusing on recruitment language to attract older employees, such as emphasising transferrable skills and experience over qualifications. Another option, notes the charity, is to offer returner or re-entry programmes for older workers who may have been out of work for a while.
3. Provide support to those with health conditions
This includes creating an open and positive culture around health at work, removing any negativity which could put employees off being honest about their conditions.
The Centre for Ageing Better adds that making small changes, such as flexible working locations and physical adjustments like fans and adjustable desks, encourage employees to continue working because they feel supported.
4. Give workers career development options
Highlighting that career development is often targeted at younger workers, Ageing Better says that older people still want to be stretched and challenged and that offering career development ensures that this can be achieved.
The charity also suggests providing older employees with career advice and support.
5. Promote an age-positive culture and interaction across all age ranges
The Centre for Ageing Better suggests supporting line managers to promote an age-positive environment because they are the people who deliver policy and create culture.
Amongst other propositions, the charity says that line managers can challenge age stereotypes and biases to encourage inclusive behaviours, design job roles around specific individuals and respond to age-related concerns positively to help support older employees at work.
The aim is that these steps will help employers respond positively and effectively to the ageing population.
Andy concluded: “Ultimately being age-friendly is about being a good employer. We need to create workplace cultures that are open, inclusive and positive about the benefits of age diversity if we are to reap the benefits of a maturing workforce now and into the future.”