Age Equality: 1 in 3 workers soon to be over 50
The next five years will see a greater number of older workers employed in the UK than we have ever seen before.
By 2025, there will be one million more people 50 and over and 300,000 fewer people 30 and under in the workplace. [Centre for Aging Better]
One in three of the working age population will be 50 or over [Centre for Aging Better]
From 2025, a third of UK work colleagues are expected to have grey hair and a propensity to develop illness and infirmity, symptoms synonymous with older age groups. But is that true?
Not all older workers will develop illness during their later working years, we just think they will, and that’s an example of age discrimination. Out-of-date workplace beliefs exist that older workers are simply not as able or committed as younger workers. These beliefs are soon to be put to the test as many more employers are going to be faced with an ageing workforce and more candidates applying for jobs from people in their 50s, 60s and 70s.
Pre-held discriminatory views against older people are endemic and something that employers will have to challenge and adapt over the years to come. Employers are used to embracing diversity, but less so age profile and age equality.
What does your workforce age demographic look like now, and what will it look like in five years’ time?
What changes should employers make now for older workers?
The recruitment process – review the process for selecting and interviewing older people, is there equality?
Support for older workers – is there someone in the organisation who is sympathetic to their physical and mental needs? Do your policies support older workers?
Healthcare provisions – what is in place for healthcare insurance, eye tests, time off for doctor appointments, annual vaccinations – do you need to re-visit your employment handbook to ensure that all ages of staff are supported by policies and not excluded?
Promotion - are older members of staff still being promoted and rewarded, as younger team members would be?
The Law and Older Workers
It is against the law to discriminate against someone based on their age [The Equality Act 2010 – see government guidance]. The Equality Act allows for age discrimination when it can be ‘objectively justified’, but careful consideration needs to be given to all roles.
Age discrimination arises when someone is unfairly disadvantaged for reasons, which cannot be objectively justified, relating to their age. This means that employers have an obligation to support and assist with the needs of older members of staff, whether that means assisting with their physical needs, or providing discussions with older employees whose performance suffers due to their age because they experience:
Poor mental agility [can’t remember things, loss of memory, loss of recall]:
“Can you give me the instructions written down please.” – onboarding and training methods might need to be different.
- Difficulty to learn or train [finding it hard to learn, overwhelmed by new technology, low retention of what has been taught, hearing loss]:
“I showed her how to do this 16 times and she still doesn’t get it!” – existing staff might need re-training to be more age-aware and age sympathetic.
Struggling physically activity [can’t lift things, can’t operate machinery, loss of dexterity or physical strength, suffering arthritis or chronic pain]:
“I can’t give him the job as he won’t be able to keep up with the production quota.” – making assumptions, making no allowances, but what steps are you taking to develop roles suited to older people?
In the 2023 Spring Budget, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt confirmed the government will:
Recruitment, training and job development cannot stay the same and employers will need to adapt to the age demographic changes – most places of work will see more older people applying for jobs and older workers in the workplace being commonplace.
Consider what needs to change where you work
if a third of your workforce is over 50?
CIPD Research on Older Workers
The number of older people in the workplace is expected to increase significantly over the next 20 years. The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) reports on
Managing an age-diverse workforce: employer and employee viewsexplore some of the key issues.
The CIPD’s report Understanding older workers: analysis and recommendations to create longer and more fulfilling working lives has examined official data on the UK’s older workers (those aged 50+) to better understand them and make recommendations to better manage and retain them.
Sejal Patel, Associate Solicitor
Lawson-West Solicitors, Leicester
"For many jobs there is no fixed retirement age therefore it must be left to the individual to decide when to retire. You can ask an employee about their short and long-term plans to help you shape the future needs of your business, but you must not raise or prompt a discussion about any possibility of the employee retiring.
Therefore, no assumptions should be made about an older worker’s ability to learn new skills or demonstrate change. Showing that you value an older worker’s experience and expertise, as well as encouraging their career advancement, is likely to result in increased productivity. You can implement workplace policies and practises such as flexible working, performance management and making reasonable adjustments, to ensure an employee is not discriminated because of their age.”