Older people are facing shocking levels of discrimination in their working lives, according to research from the Centre for Ageing Better.
A significant number of older workers (aged over 50) believe there are biases against them during recruitment, with nearly half of the 1,100 respondents (46%) saying that they are afraid that their age would disadvantage them when applying for a job.
In addition, 14% believe they have been turned down for jobs as a direct result of their age and 18% consider hiding their age in job applications.
These trends would suggest that potential employees with years of experience and skills are put-off applying for jobs with employers that don’t value them. In fact, the survey states that 29% of older workers think their workplace doesn’t value them.
So how can employers ensure that potential candidates in this age bracket aren’t discriminated against during recruitment?
Employers need to avoid using language that may show a preference for younger candidates. This can include descriptive phrases such as looking for a “recent graduate”, or someone who is “youthful” or “energetic”. Take care when asking for qualifications too, such as prioritising GCSEs over O-Levels.
Although it’s not unlawful, asking for an applicant’s date of birth on an application form may imply that an employer discriminates on grounds of age. They have to ask themselves whether they really need to know that information, and whether it affects how well a candidate can do the job.
Dates of birth can be requested later for the employer’s records, or included on another part of the application form for monitoring purposes. The recruiting manager should not see that part.
As with the application form, there is no need for an interviewer to ask the candidate their age. Also avoid questions that may imply their age, such as “are you married?”, “do you have children?”, and “what year did you leave school?”.
That can contribute to an age discrimination case if the candidate feels they were not offered the job because of their age, despite meeting all the criteria. The questions can also create an unintentional bias in the interviewer, who may feel the candidate is overqualified or unlikely to stay in the job for long. This cannot be assumed.
Employing people with protected characteristics
Employers can safely hire a candidate who has a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 over one who doesn’t in special circumstances, for example if they think that people with that characteristic are underrepresented in the workforce, profession or industry.
This can only be done when trying to address the underrepresentation or disadvantage for that particular characteristic. Decisions must be made on a case-by-case basis, and it should be remembered that the candidate must be suitable for the job in the first place.
Overall, there are many benefits of having a diverse workforce, and this of course includes recruiting people of different ages.