Memorandum from Age Concern Scotland
In what ways and to what extent are older workers
treated less favourably than younger workers as a result of their
Through the imposition of age limits in job
applications and/or conditions of employment.
By not being put forward for promotion.
Selection for redundancy on grounds of age.
Indirect age discriminationcoercion in
the workplace towards early retirement.
People aged 50+ who experience, or have experienced,
redundancy, unemployment or early retirement, continue to find
it exceedingly difficult to secure employment commensurate with
their skills, qualifications and experience.
Individuals from certain employment sectors
may find it harder than others to find new employment opportunities.
People from industries that are youth dominated, such as the IT
industry or blue collar industries, may be more likely to suffer
from the adverse effects of age discrimination. Older workers
can be forced into self-employment or consultancy work as a result
of being unable to secure paid employment, but this does not provide
sufficient opportunity for all.
The level of education or academic attainment
can also influence prospective employers in the employment of
old workers. This may be particularly applicable to women. An
over reliance on academic qualifications when recruiting staff
can lead to indirect discrimination against older workers who
may not have had the same educational opportunities as younger
workers. Life-long learning strategies can have within them unreasonable
age restrictions, which also act against older people.
Fixed retirement ages, and a lack of flexible
retirement policies, can result in discrimination against older
workers. Early retirement disadvantages older workers by reducing
their ability to develop adequate pension funds. It is somewhat
ironic that Government itself actively discriminates against older
workers by fixing age limits and conditions for employment within
the Civil Service.
What benefit does promoting age diversity in the
workplace offer to employers and employees?
Older workers (50+) can offer long term commitment/loyalty
to same employer as they are socially established.
Higher levels of motivation ie, as evidenced
through mature students in higher education.
Retention of skills and experience.
Willingness to learn new skills and challenges.
Lower levels of absenteeism.
Bring greater social and personal skills and
experience ie, having raised families, undertaken responsibilities
such as school councils, parents' associations, church activities
etc, through established interests and pursuits.
Knowledge and skills transfer.
Less work place competition and greater opportunity
for team and group working.
A balanced workforce.
Better prospects for long term health and social
Greater opportunity to ensure they have adequate
A feeling of being valued for the work they
do resulting in better commitment to the organisation.
The ability to pass on skills and experience
from older workers to younger workers.
In what circumstances (if any) is the use of age
as a criterion for the recruitment and retention of employees
Age should not be the sole criterion for restricting
How effective is the Government's Code of Practice
in promoting age diversity in the workplace?
This seems to have made little or no impact
upon employers, in general.
The Employers Code of Practice is voluntary
and therefore there is considerable work needing to be done to
readdress negative attitudes towards older workers, and for employers
to understand demographic shifts in the population and how this
will impact on their industry or business in the future.
This question asks about promoting age diversity
in the workplace, which raised issues about the recruitment and
selection of employees, and the need for monitoring mechanisms
to ensure that age equality is applied across the organisation
or business concerned. In this instance, it is important to draw
lessons from the race and disability equality legislation and
practices in employment, and determine how successful these have
been in achieving their goals. Similarly, to ensure age equality
(as in race, disability and gender) it is crucial that strategies
are developed, implemented and evaluated by the most senior management.
Some organisations do not seek the age of prospective
applicants in application forms seeing this as discriminatory.
Age Concern Scotland support this practice but at the same time,
age monitoring of job applicants and employees should be crucial
if we are to satisfy the requirement for an age diverse workforce.
In what ways do other Government policies such
as the New Deal help or hinder older workers, especially unemployed
Government policies perpetuate strong images
of young people through the media. For example, health campaigns
are given upbeat treatment in TV advertising and general media
campaigns with greater emphasis on contemporary youth culture
and music, in particular. Moreover, the New Deal, and while some
would say that this is not producing the anticipated results,
has been given higher profile for younger rather than for older
Again, market segmentation is important if it
is to reach the target population.
Government policies, such as the New Deal, may
have helped some older people but without the assurances of securing
employment (as an outcome of the scheme) as strategies they must
be regarded as inadequate. The New Deal 50+ is not an alternative
to strong measures to end age discrimination.
Is there a case for anti-discrimination legislation
and, if so, what provisions should it include?
Yes, of course there is a case for anti-discrimination
legislation in respect of age.
It is insufficient to have to rely on broad
sweeping measures under equal opportunities or even human rights
legislation. Without the legal framework, older people will be
treated less favourably.
Any legislation should make it unlawful to discriminate,
directly or indirectly, against people on the grounds of age in
terms of employment.
In addition, the cost to society of age discrimination
in employment is significant. The trend towards early retirement
loses skills and experience, and places a greater financial burden
on pension funds, and state provided sickness, disability and
pension benefits. Lack of employment in later working life leads
to poorer health in later life, increasing the burden on the state.
Age discrimination legislation is essential,
and guidance alone will never be sufficient, despite economic
and demographic pressures on employers to recruit and retain an
age diverse workforce. However legislation alone will not change
practice and attitudes. It is important to recognise that race
and gender discrimination, direct and indirect, still occur, even
after decades of legislation.
Age Concern Scotland