Brits feel their career nosedives from age 54

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Brits feel invisible in the workplace at the age of 54, a new study has revealed. Researchers have identified the exact point when the nation’s workforce consider that their career prospects are negatively impacted by their age.

This is the point when Brits feel that they are more at risk of redundancy, being passed over for promotion and are less likely to be approached about new opportunities.

The study also revealed that workers as young as 40 felt their career was stalling because of their age, yet 60% were unaware that there was legislation to protect them from age discrimination at work.

The research into the experiences of 2,061 people over-40 was commissioned by Slater & Gordon Lawyers who have noticed a steady increase in age discrimination cases in the last five years. Nearly half of the people surveyed said they were more likely to get overlooked when it came to promotions because of their age, and 23% said they have hit a ‘brick wall’ in their career progression.

One in ten feel ignored by their manager and one in seven have watched younger staff get promoted ahead of them since they hit 40. More than a third think they are more likely to be made redundant because of their age.

Edward Cooper, head of Employment Law at Slater & Gordon said, “This is a growing problem that we are encountering more and more. Often people are fully intending to work well into their sixties and maybe even their seventies, but find that once they get past forty their options may be more limited than they previously were.”

“They may find themselves being sidelined, no longer being client facing or, in the worst case scenarios, facing redundancy when the reality is that legislation is in place that means no one can be treated differently in the workplace because of their age, without justification.”

One in ten have been asked when they will retire and the same number have been the subject of jokes about their age. Many didn’t get invited to social events organised by younger staff and some said they weren’t included in office gossip.

Other complaints over-40s had were that they weren’t seen as ‘dynamic’ by their managers or part of the future of the business. One in twenty felt their views were completely ignored.

A huge area of concern for older employees was the fear of being made redundant, with three quarters admitting they think they would struggle to find a new job because of their age. Of those that thought their age might lead them to lose their job, more than half said they worried it would be because they were more expensive, with others anxious that their company valued youth over experience. But seven out of ten over-40s said they thought they performed better in their job than their younger colleagues.

Edward Cooper also said “With people living longer than ever before, most expect to be able to work until they want to. Very few businesses enforce a retirement age but this research shows that many will still sideline and isolate staff when they get to a certain age.

“If anyone feels they are subjected to age discrimination at work we would advise them to talk to their employers and, if that does not resolve it, consult an Employment Solicitor to ensure their legal rights are being protected.

“No one should feel that they are being pushed out of their job just to make way for younger staff.”

People who work in the finance or IT sector were more likely to feel invisible to younger staff and were also more likely to feel they had hit a wall when it came to career progression. More than a third of those that worked in advertising had seen younger and less experienced colleagues promoted above them compared to just one in ten across all industries.

Slater & Gordon’s study also showed that people in advertising and IT who had been searching for a job over the age of 40 were likely to have to apply for 25 and 17 jobs respectively, compared to an average of 12 across other sectors.

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  1. This is an important subject and one which we must understand. I think that the fears revealed in the study may be, on some occasions, be unfounded. My reasons are that:

    1. Many employers value the work ethic and stability that older employees bring to the group.
    2. If anything, UK organisations are short of skilled and experienced staff. They do not want to lose their most important assets and will avoid reducing headcount and losing the skill-base they need.
    3. We should all realise that we will hit our ceiling at some point. If your career has plateaued, it will probably be because you have reached your peak not because you are being discriminated against.
    4. Anyone who is not up to the job or has low performance is in danger of losing out during a downsizing restructure. It does not matter how young or old you are. Sometimes people fool themselves by assuming that they were selected because of their age. It will often be because they were not good enough for the new structure.

    Rather than feel side-lined, it is better if we become realistic and make positive steps to identify and promote the unique qualities that we can still offer.

  2. “Career” is one of those weasel words…..and I suspect that the research has focused on just one meaning – the climb up an organisational totem pole. Research many years ago suggested 3 other meanings for career and career development:
    – being an expert in your subject/specialism
    – having influence
    – being/doing the best that you can and maximising your contribution and abilities.

    None of these is age-bound, and can be pursued inside or outside the organisation in which you may be currently employed. It just needs the individual to take a different perspective.

    Note for Editor: don’t fret – it isn’t true that you become invisible to the opposite gender! It’s all a question of whether they are attracted to what they see and hear…..even if we’re not all Bernie Ecclestones or Joan Collins’s!!

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