Ageism in the workplace: Throw out your stereotypes and tap into the talent of the silver surfer generation.

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Over the past five years, the total number of people in employment in the UK has grown by 6.9%, with employment for the over 50s rising faster than for younger workers.  So, with this in mind, I always ask myself, ‘why is it that employers seem less keen to see candidates in the 50+ demographic?’

 

According to a report by the Institute of Leadership and Management, 61 per cent of managers say that their over fifties workers have low, or very low, potential to progress.  An assumption is made that the over-fifties, having entered their ‘Autumn years,’ will be looking to sit comfortably back in their role, and lack the enthusiasm and drive which is so key to some of the more dynamic companies’ ethos.

 

However, this short sighted and incorrect assumption does not take in to account all the positive aspects the over 50’s bring to the workplace, as it is this age group who score higher than their younger colleagues on occupation specific knowledge and skills (85%) and understanding of customers (78%).  So, if you want an employee who is confidently able to engage with your customer, and share their industry know-how with co-workers, then it’s an over 50s candidate you want!

 

In my experience, the over 50s are equally as keen and motivated in their jobs as their younger counterparts. Many professionals are choosing not to retire until they are well into their 70s – either for financial reasons, or, simply because they love their job and feel they still have so much to offer.  After all, not everyone wants to go from career professional to spending their days gardening and babysitting grandchildren!  The over 50s have a plethora of skills, knowledge, and the added benefit of experience, to bring to a company and shouldn’t be written off due to preconceived opinions and stereotypes surrounding their age group.

 

If you are put off recruiting an older employee for fear that they won’t be as tech-savvy with the internet, high-tech software packages, or even the in-house intranet, think again. They may not have grown up with a smartphone grasped in their hand, but this is the generation who has seen the biggest improvements and changes in industry based technology throughout the 20th century and into the 21st.  The phrase ‘silver surfers’ exists for a reason, so believe me, they can handle the technology!  Having said that, when it comes to employees facebooking and snapchatting during work hours, it’s much less likely to be your over 50s – another bonus to your department’s productivity.

 

So, where does the law stand on using age as a discriminatory factor when hiring?

 

In a nutshell, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate directly by treating a job applicant or employee less favourably because of age without objective justification. This would preclude an employer from passing an employee by for promotion on a belief that because of their age they were not keen to step into a new role.

 

Government figures show that an estimated 13.5 million jobs will be created over the next 10 years, but only 7 million young people will enter the labour force. A management skills’ gap is looming, and employers would be foolish to disregard the talent of older workers.

Focusing on the Future Post Brexit

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I think it would be fair to say that whichever way you voted in the EU referendum, most of us were taken by surprise by the events that unfolded following the results.

But, no matter what your opinion on Brexit, we can’t avoid the fact that at some point article 51 will be triggered, and without a doubt, there will be consequences to the UK job market and employment laws.

 

Kevin GreenThe official statement from the Recruitment & Employment Confederation’s Chief Executive, Kevin Green, was as follows: “The vote to leave the EU is likely to usher in a challenging period for British business and for the UK labour market in particular. Our data has shown a slowdown in hiring as we approached the referendum. We expect to see this period of uncertainty continue. We need to ensure that British businesses continue to be able to get the people they need to fill the jobs available. Access to talent is absolutely vital to sustainable economic growth and prosperity. In sectors such as healthcare, education, hospitality, construction and manufacturing, workers from the EU are vital and any change to our immigration system needs to recognise that.”

 

Although there will of course be a period of uncertainly, at Engage, and our sister company, Jobshop UK, we have actually seen a rise in demand for permanent roles post June 23rd, and this is of course hugely encouraging.  I put this down to most of us – whether we are business owners, company directors or HR leaders – having that good old British resolve and just getting on with it!

 

Being part of the EU meant there were laws we had to adhere to which many in recruitment and HR found officious, frustrating and irrelevant to the UK employment market.  But there is one subject on most people’s minds concerning recruitment and employment, and that’s the law dealing with freedom of movement and immigration post Brexit.

 

Personally, I’m hopeful that opportunities for hiring talent from a global market will strengthen our economy.  Once article 51 has been triggered, we’re unlikely to see any immediate or major employment law policy change in the UK and many EU laws would possibly be retained – either as part of the Brexit negotiation deal, or simply because many of those laws are now ingrained within the UK workplace, and have become the norm.

 

Freedom of movement would have to be a huge part of any Brexit deal given the sheer numbers of EU workers in Britain and the number of UK expats living in EU countries. Brussels would likely demand some form of free movement of people in return for the UK enjoying free movement of goods.  So again, no major changes suddenly coming into play there.

 

As we know, most businesses are run in a global market, not just a European market, and at times the EU market labour movement rules have restricted a company’s ability to think and act globally.  As part of the EU, frustrations arose when employers were not able to easily hire people they knew to be perfect for a job – often after meeting them at networking events or business trips outside the EU.  Often, a particular population can provide the UK job market with highly skilled workers, or workers with a specific cultural and geographical knowledge, but it was not easy to hire these people as they resided outside the EU.  Potentially, post Brexit, we could see a change in the laws which make it easier to hire talent from the global market.

 

With so much negativity immediately surrounding the EU referendum result, it is our duty as business owners, employers, recruiters, and most importantly, as UK citizens, to be as positive and pro-active as we can in turning this result into something that will work for us in making our country and economy one to be respected, admired and looked up to as a strong model for the future.