Don’t assume workers in their 60s are the only ones who face the threat of age discrimination in the workplace — employees as young as 45 have actively been discriminated against, according to analysis from the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre and research from the University of South Australia.
Despite the fact numerous studies have found older workers can be an asset — and, due to anticipated workforce changes, will likely be needed in many markets for years to come — age discrimination is alive and well; and it can cost companies morale, the chance to correct delay-causing skills gaps, and potentially revenue.
How can you keep it from entering into the hiring and management process — and, should that somehow happen, correct and prevent it from happening again?
The solution lies in first identifying what some of the most common occurrences of age discrimination in the workplace are, and the actions and agendas that can help your organization consistently avoid them in the future.
Age discrimination laws and regulations vary from country to country, but generally, they offer protection against being penalized due to your generational status.
A few examples include:
- In the U.S., individual states may have their own age discrimination laws, and federally, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects current workers and potential hires who are 40 and older from bias in promotions, pay and other benefits due to age.
- Australia’s Age Discrimination Act, as defined by the Australian Human Rights Commission, makes it against the law to treat citizens unfairly because of their age in different areas of public life, including when they’re getting hired or promoted.
- Singapore’s fair employment practice principles include recruiting and selecting employees on the basis of merit — namely, skills, experience or job performance ability — regardless of age, race, gender, religion, martial status/family responsibilities or a disability.
- The U.K.’s Equality Act 2010 clarified the term age group as a fraction of people who share a commonality — such as older workers who are over 50, or 21-year-olds. The country’s age discrimination laws state it’s unlawful for prospective employers to ban job candidates who are past an organization’s typical retirement age; if, for example, the retirement age was 65, someone who was 66 years old.
Much like the regulations designed to prevent them, the amount and type of age-related workplace discrimination infractions tend to differ per region; the best solutions to prevent them, as a result, often do, too.
However, in a number of instances, the following suggestions may prove helpful:
Examine your screening process
Not being able to even get in the door due to age is a frequent concern. In the U.S., an AARP survey found the most common type of age-related
workplace discrimination involved not getting hired; in the U.K., nearly two-thirds of 55- to 64-year-olds say they’ve felt discriminated against by a prospective employer due to their age when being interviewed, according to 2016 totaljobs research.
Consider older workers for other positions
In addition to fair consideration from prospective employers, internal advancement may also be a concern. More than a third of global job candidates — 34 percent — view their age as their top career challenge, according to a ManpowerGroup Solutions survey. Nineteen percent of U.S workers say age caused them to miss out on a promotion, according to AARP.
Increase development efforts for older workers
In Australia, negative beliefs about older workers’ skills, learning abilities or cognition was the most common form of perceived age discrimination in the workplace; colleagues sometimes just assumed older workers would struggle to pick up new technology or other systems because of their age.
That bias may have been in a factor in organizations’ failure to provide older workers with the same promotional or training opportunities as younger employees, an issue survey participants also reported.
Denying workers access to training and other benefits can be a damaging form of age-related workplace discrimination.
To ensure equality, avoid age-based assumptions about technology experience and general development programming and open educational opportunities up to a wider generational group.
With more employees remaining in the workforce past the typical retirement age, some older workers may have an interest in continuing to enhance their skill set. Depending on when they plan to retire, if they end up remaining with your organization for several years, you may see a significant return on your investment.
Find out more about battling age discrimination in the workplace in our blog posts on retaining older workers and how current and prospective employers can address unconscious bias; our free white paper on generational diversity’s pending influence on the workforce can provide additional insight.