Ageism in recruitment

ageism in recruitment

Age is just a number?

According to a recent YouGov poll of more than 1,100 employees over the age of 50, 14% of those surveyed believe they have been turned down for a job due to their age. 18% of respondents had previously chosen not to disclose their age in job applications and 46% thought their age would put them at a disadvantage when competing with younger applicants. – Top CV

Under the Equality Act, you are protected from age discrimination in all aspects of employment including in the recruitment process, employment terms and conditions, promotions, training and dismissals. However, whilst it protects you from age discrimination at work or when applying for a job, there is an exception in the law that applies to age directly. An employer can make a decision based on someone’s age if they can show that it is objectively justified and proportionate. 

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the number of 50-64-year-olds out of work has increased by 175,000 – many of which believe that ageism in recruitment will be the stumbling block for them when it comes to getting back to work and finding a new job.

“Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the number of 50-64-year-olds out of work has increased by 175,000”

“Recruiters have said that even though they’ve never had a client ask outright for candidates of a certain age, they have made it clear the culture of the office and the average age, which implies the type of clients employers are after.” – agencycentral

A recent Aviva study of more than 2,000 employees aged 45+ found that:

  • 37% of employees feel there is age discrimination in their workplace
  • Workers aged 55-59 are most likely to think they face age discrimination
  • More than half of workers aged 60-plus are not ready to retire, rising to 61% among those aged 65-plus
  • Not feeling ready to retire, enjoying their job, and wanting social interaction, are among the reasons for continuing to work

“Interviews with managers suggest employers still fear that older workers are sick more often and that they are less motivated, healthy and productive. So, given the choice between an old and a young candidate with identical CVs, an employer affected by statistical discrimination would supposedly choose the younger candidate.” –

However, it isn’t just the older generation suffering at the hands of ageism in recruitment. The younger generation are also finding similar issues, particularly when newly graduating or coming out of education, with many jobs requiring several years of experience that is simply impossible for them to fulfil. 

“When it comes to employment, the belief that young people are inexperienced and need to get a foot on the labour market – often at any cost – reigns supreme.” – ageing equal

Due to this, young people find themselves on minimum wage, taking up unpaid internships or work experience and often accepting jobs that are unstable, unsuitable or that take advantage of their skills and talents whilst paying low wages. This has a knock-on effect for young peoples futures, including the struggle of getting onto the property ladder, career progression and salary increases, something that seemed much easier for previous generations. 

Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a large increase in unemployment and a large fall in employment for young people aged 16-24.

“Since the crisis began, 693,000 payroll jobs have disappeared, including 368,000 in hotels, restaurants and pubs, and 123,000 in shops. During the pandemic more nearly two-thirds of the fall in the number of employees has been among the under-25s.” – BBC

In an attempt to tackle the surge of Covid-induced youth unemployment, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the £2bn Kickstart Scheme in September, aimed at encouraging businesses to create new jobs specifically for the young. 

Upon announcing the scheme, Sunak said: “Our country’s future will be built by the next generation, so it’s vital that we harness the talent of young people as we rebuild from the pandemic.”

It’s clear that ageism within recruitment needs to be tackled head-on, and that hiring needs to be focused on the right fit. Oftentimes someone can tick all the right boxes for age, experience, location and qualifications but often do not fit into the team in terms of personality – hiring a diverse team can have so many positive outcomes for a company or business.

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