As per the re-runs of a popular television topical quiz show, so this week sees the release of another government report on age discrimination, ‘Older People and Employment’. The UK Parliaments Women and Equalities Committee (W&EC) have pooled input and feedback to highlight the continual problem of older people facing employment barriers. (You can view the report here.)

We applaud such awareness to the issues and barriers, but this report:

  • refers to last year’s report issued by the UK Governments Fuller Working Lives team, the 2017 Evidenced Based report, that highlighted employer engagement as an issue.
  • makes reference to research completed over 3 years ago, research that highlighted a potential ‘missing million’ older people that wanted to work, but were not receiving the necessary support.
  • references an even older government funded pilot project, for those aged 50+, to receive a mid-life career review, a project that was panned by a leading UK Trade Union.
  • has a section for flexible working conditions, where employers should consider various adjustments to align to an employee’s special requirements. To be honest, this section could/should be a ‘cut and paste’ for any employee…young or old….with specific caring responsibilities….or simply wanting a supportive work-life balance to their family commitments.
  • highlights, again, negative bias in the recruitment environment, and by the way, where this exists, it’s a conscious act.

However, there is a progressive element, as it does try to tie the values and benefits to the latest UK Governments Industrial Strategy where an ageing society is described as one of the four ’Grand Challenges’ (see our Industrial Strategy blog here).

Unfortunately, as described in this E&WC report, age, as part of the diversity and inclusion (D&I) agenda, remains a largely overlooked area. But we have seen with our ‘Champions’, that with increased focus on consolidation and effectiveness of ‘inter-sectionality’, age can offer an advantageous route for D&I/HR departments, as it is the only D&I agenda item that crosses all other streams.

We hear, and most importantly, listen, to organisations who consider age diversity in the work-place as not just the remit for older workers, rather a culture that produces strength from generational integration. So, again, whilst it is important for older worker barriers to be highlighted in this W&EC report, it is important to recognise the wider vision of cultural value. We believe that incorporating age as an inter-sectional objective, is an enabler for organisations to adopt strategy and disseminate positive D&I messages.

I was invited to participate in a BBC debate this morning about the release of the W&EC report, and as is usually the case, the real issues are highlighted most effectively by people who are actually experiencing negative bias. A job seeker called in and made a comment that perhaps, younger management felt threatened by recruiting experience, potentially a more experienced person than the manager in-situ.

We have certainly heard this same challenge from a number of organisations. But this is where the development and implementation of a company culture towards an integrated employee society, will produce dividends.

As per previous releases, once again, this latest report highlights a gap between age D&I acknowledgement, and actually putting values in to practice. The good news is that through our ‘Champion’ network, we are seeing organisations recognise the power and value of an age diverse work place.

Although this latest report refers to past research projects, it is welcomed, as it clearly highlights that there is more work to be done. Together with grand plans of any Governments Industrial Strategy, the challenges of age diversity can sometimes seem a long way from an organisations day-to-day world, for even the largest and well-resourced companies. We aim to provide easy accessible pathways, to enable organisations of all size, sector and location, to incorporate, not just awareness, but to participate in D&I debate and practice.

Developing the culture will fulfil social and business achievement.

Steve Anderson / CEO / The Age Diversity Forum