Age-related bias still unmonitored in recruitment

Mercer research has found employers are not keeping on top of potential age discrimination in hiring

More than nine out of 10 (92%) of employers have never run an analysis to determine whether hiring managers are discriminating on the basis of age, according to research from Mercer.

The Age-Friendly Employer Research found that 87% of respondents do not check whether their people managers hire workers older than themselves. Of the 13% that did check, more than half (7%) found that managers were not hiring people older than themselves.

Yvonne Sonsino, partner and innovation leader at Mercer Europe, warned that businesses risk missing out on skilled workers.

“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,” she said. “There are limited examples of age equality checks in other key areas too, such as on pay levels, performance grade distribution and training spend.”

Sonsino added that reviewing older worker policies is essential. “Such checks need to become a minimum benchmark for all employers to ensure fairness and equality,” she said. “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 report also investigated the employee benefits on offer that particularly appeal to older people. Flexible working was the most prevalent age-friendly working practice, offered by 81% of employers. ‘Preparing for retirement’ programmes were provided by just over half (52%). Offering advice and support for those caring for ageing relatives was available at 45% of companies, and 30% run age-specific wellness programmes.

Pensions minister Ros Altmann said the survey shows there is still more work to be done to encourage recruiters to utilise 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,” she said. “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 organisations.”