A new report highlights the lack of consideration taken to combat ageism in most companies, with the majority of employers failing to consider age as part of their diversity initiatives. 

A report carried out by the Institute of Employment Studies (IES) shows that many companies are failing to identify and deal with age bias within their recruitment processes.

When analysing the Diversity and Inclusivity initiatives that were adopted by companies, the majority of organisations felt that they needed to take immediate action on race and gender issues as opposed to age issues.

In order to improve diversity within those areas, the report states that companies were likely to analyse workforce and applicant data on specific protected characteristics. Following this, companies would then measure this up against their own D&I strategies.

However, none of the employers questioned within the report had a strategy set up in order to improve age diversity. Furthermore, when looking at age diversity, most companies did not collect specific data on this but used subjective judgements to make conclusions.

The Centre for Ageing Better found that this put older workers at a disadvantage as employers were less likely to pick up on age-related diversity issues within their firms.

The report also found various negative stereotypes that employers and hiring managers carried throughout the recruitment process which could sway the final decision.

This included:

  • Older workers ‘not tending to want to work in junior roles’.
  • Older workers ‘having poor IT skills’.
  • Older workers are ‘more likely to have issues with their fitness levels, impacting their effectiveness in physical roles’.
  • Younger people are ‘more flexible to the needs of the business, particularly in terms of working patterns’.
  • The appearance of younger staff being more ‘presentable’ for customer-facing roles as they are ‘less likely to look worn out’.

Despite the lack of awareness surrounding this issue amongst employers, older workers have been significantly impacted by the pandemic. Since 2019, unemployment amongst over 50s has risen by a third. The Centre for Ageing Better predicts that by the end of the furlough scheme, almost half a million over 50s (400,000) will be out of work.

In order to ensure recruitment processes are fair to people of all ages, the report made the following recommendations:

  • Circulate job advertisements as widely as possible to ensure they are reaching people from a wide range of backgrounds.
  • Consider the impact of recruitment processes on people from multiple under-represented groups, e.g. older women, people from ethnic minority backgrounds  with disabilities.
  •  Use application processes that reduce explicit and implicit age cues, such as standardised application forms rather than CVs.
  •  Collect and analyse the age profile of the current workforce as well as job applicants to evaluate whether job advertisements are attracting candidates of all ages.
  • Structure the interview process using multiple decision-makers, predefined questions and scoring mechanisms to
    mitigate the impact of potential age bias.

Jenny Holmes, HR Research Consultant at IES, said:

Our research found that employers are keen to improve the diversity of their workforces and to ensure that their recruitment processes are inclusive to all applicants. Many employers who participated in the research believe that their workforce is age diverse, and therefore consider age less of a priority to address in recruitment.

However, many employers acknowledged that they do not currently analyse recruitment data in relation to age, so cannot be certain that bias does not exist within their recruitment processes. Employers should be collecting and analysing age data in the recruitment process in the same way as they tend to track gender, ethnicity and disability.


This research was taken from the Centre for Ageing Better’s report ‘Shut Out: How Employers are overlooking the talents of over 50s workers’. This research was conducted by the Institute for Employment Studies.

Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.