Age-related recruitment bias goes unchecked amongst majority of companies

Age
“A lack of monitoring around age-related recruitment biases not only means that companies are potentially breaking age discrimination laws.”

The vast majority (87%) of employers do not check whether their people managers hire workers older than themselves, according to the results of Mercer’s Age-Friendly Employer research released this week.

The study into age-friendly employment practices reveals a lack of checks on hiring and recruitment. Of the remaining 13 percent that do measure it, over half found that managers do not hire people older than themselves. The findings are also reflected in research from the recruitment industry, where 92 percent of respondents confirmed that they have never run an analysis to determine whether a client is discriminating on the basis of age.

Yvonne Sonsino, Europe innovation leader at Mercer, said:

“A lack of monitoring around age-related recruitment biases not only means that companies are potentially breaking age discrimination laws, it also means they might be missing out on a wealth of experience and talent that could benefit the business. There are limited examples of age equality checks in other key areas too, such as on pay levels by age, performance grade distribution and training spend.

“Such checks need to become a minimum benchmark for all employers, to ensure fairness and equity. There is a direct impact on engagement and productivity at stake here, and those employers that do them already emphasise how effective they can be.”

The research highlighted an urgent need for companies to review their age related HR policies and practices. The majority reference age in their diversity and inclusion policies, however most do so in relation to retirement only. Eighty-four percent reported that they need to change processes, behaviours or both in relation to age, in order to retain older workers in future.

“By 2050, the number of people over 65 years old will triple worldwide and the number of those over 80 will quadruple,” said Ms Sonsino. “Some countries will be more affected than others, but this demographic change is inescapable. Combined with reduced birth rates, the result is severe skills shortages, which is already impacting employers. Companies will need to understand this change and prepare to survive.”

Mercer’s research found flexible working to be the most prevalent age friendly working practice among participants, offered by 81 percent, whereas ‘preparing for retirement’ programmes are offered by just over half (52%). The increasingly popular practice of offering advice and support for those caring for ageing relatives is so far only offered by 45 percent of companies. Over a third (36%) analyse health and absence by age to investigate the potential cost impact of age related health conditions, however, only 30 percent offer age-specific wellness programmes.

Minister for Pensions, Baroness Ros Altmann, said: “This survey shows that there is still more work to be done to encourage recruiters to make the most of the talents of older workers.

“It is in the interests of individuals, employers and the economy to ensure older job applicants are not overlooked, as they have a wealth of experience and valuable skills that can benefit businesses. Ensuring mature applicants are considered on their merits rather than written off is vital, especially in our ageing population.

“People are not ‘old’ in their fifties and sixties and it is important that employers remain open-minded to recruiting and training older staff and reaping the benefits of doing so for their businesses.”

The data in Mercer’s report came from three primary sources, including a survey of 69 UK employers with over 3.4m employees combined, that looked at what companies are doing to engage and retain older workers. The Trade Union Congress (TUC) also surveyed over 1,300 of its members on how they view workplace practices. Finally, the recruitment expert De Poel gathered views, via focus groups and interviews, on how their industry engages with and views older people looking for work.  Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) reviewed the overall research results and added additional data and observations from their existing research and knowledge of labour trends.


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  1. Lots of positive opportunities and employer/employee win wins to be had by HR by embracing these game changing demographic shifts. You can’t fight demographics…

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