Two older women at work in a stock room

Ageism in the workplace

If you are older and want to keep working, finding or retaining a job can be even more difficult. Ageism is the most reported form of workplace discrimination. One in three people aged over 50 believe they have been turned down for a job because of their age. Yet at the same time, employers are crying out for skilled workers to meet skills and labour shortages.

What can you do to help?

Discriminating against employees because of their age is already illegal. But more and more employers are going beyond this legal requirement and actively taking steps to show they value older workers. These employers benefit from multigenerational teams that evidence shows are not only more productive, but also more innovative. 

You can help by encouraging your employer to join the Age-friendly Employer Pledge - a nationwide programme for employers who recognise the value of older workers. Employers that sign the pledge commit to taking just one action – big or small – each year to improve the recruitment and retention of older workers. Nearly 300 employers have signed the pledge, including many local authorities, Aviva, RSPCA and McDonalds.

Five ways employers can make their workplaces more age-friendly

1. Analyse your workforce data by age

The first thing to do is to identify what challenges you face as an employer. Collecting data about the age of your workforce will help you to understand this.

Are older applicants less likely to be offered an interview? Are you providing opportunities for development for people of all ages? What is the average age of exit for your employees?

2. Look at your job ads

Do your job ads appeal to everyone? Are you using terms like ‘recent graduate’? Does your diversity statement include age-inclusivity?

These questions will get the ball rolling. More than a third of older workers feel their age would work against them in getting a new job. We need to change this.

Research shows that making job adverts accessible to older workers does not deter younger ones. By reducing age bias from the first stage of our interaction with potential employees, we lay the foundations for creating an age-friendly environment. To learn more about reducing age bias, see our GROW tools.

3. Welcome flexible work for any reason

Many of us have time-consuming responsibilities outside of work. This includes caring responsibilities and needing to manage our health. Older people are disproportionately affected by these issues. Flexibility is the most important thing you can do to support older workers.

If a job can be done flexibly, it can be done by anyone.

4. Provide a holistic MOT to staff in mid-life and beyond

Everyone deserves to feel valued by their employer. Too often, conversations about career development are limited to younger workers. People over 55 are the least likely to receive workplace training with more than a third missing out in the last decade. However, as more of us work into our 50s, 60s and even 70s, conversations should be had throughout a person’s career.

The mid-life MOT is a chance for you to talk to your employees in their 40s, 50s and beyond about their future.

5. Have open conversations about menopause at work

A CIPD survey found that around one in six women have considered leaving work due to a lack of support for menopause symptoms, with more than one in twenty leaving work due to the menopause.

This issue is rarely discussed and has pushed too many women out of work. By providing training to everyone about the effects of the menopause, you are directly helping menopausal women stay in work.