Fi Age Discrimination

Age Discrimination at Work is Really Starting to Get Old

Published by
04th March 2024

37% of people in their 50s and 60s in the UK have experienced age discrimination in the past year, most commonly in the workplace. And in the US around two-thirds of over-50 adults believe older workers are facing age discrimination at work.

Ageism has always been something that seemingly slips through the cracks. Throwaway comments and outdated assumptions continue to allow this discrimination to be perpetuated, but with a third of the UK workforce being over 50, and nearly a quarter of the US workforce being over 55, employers have a responsibility to be clamping down on ageism at work if they want to unlock the full potential of their midlife workers.

But in order to do this, employers first need to know what to be looking for. Our friends at Rest Less have identified seven common examples of ageism that happen in the workplace:

  1. Stereotyping – this can affect both older and younger workers and is where assumptions or judgements are made about people based on their age.
  2. Marginalisation – usually the result of stereotyping, and happens when someone is made to feel  less important than others in society. They’re essentially sidelined and made to feel small.
  3. Microaggressions – theseare subtle, often unintentional, comments or behaviours that convey discriminatory messages. Both stereotyping and marginalisation can be examples of microaggressions.
  4. Bias in Hiring Process – many over 50s looking to transition into roles that don’t directly align with their experience and skill level may also be branded by employers as ‘overqualified’ – and overlooked as a result.
  5. Rebranding Roles – role rebranding isn’t unusual and is an example of ageism that sees older employees being informed that their role is being phased out because it’s no longer needed at the company…a company will then advertise the same role under a different title and hire a younger candidate.
  6. Redundancy Selection – in situations where companies are making redundancies, some companies will make voluntary redundancy offers to older employees based on assumptions that “they will be retiring soon anyway”.
  7. Harassment – age harassment can take various forms, including all of the examples listed above. But, in extreme cases, it may escalate to explicit bullying.

Employers that are well-versed in how ageism presents in the workplace are going to be the ones who are most prepared to challenge it. And by doing so, they will be creating a work environment where everyone feels like they are welcome and that they belong, and this is the type of culture where employees thrive.

This is all without mentioning the many positives that having an age-diverse workforce can bring to a company – midlife workers will have a lot of experience under their belt, as well as age-inclusive perspectives that will help expand their employer’s marketing horizons. This is why it is so important for older workers to also be offered opportunities to learn and develop, as they have so much talent to offer, it may just need to be re-contextualized!

If you would like to discuss how we can help eradicate age discrimination from your workplace and unlock all the potential of a diversely-aged team, please get in touch with us.

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