Employers failing to tackle age bias in recruitment

Employers are failing to identify and tackle age bias in recruitment processes despite not viewing ageism as a problem in their organisation.

In a new report, the most common response from employers regarding olders workers was that they ‘have poor IT skills’ or look ‘worn-out.’

The Centre for Ageing Better has warned that such attitudes towards older workers risk them being shut out of employment, especially as more are made redundant in the months ahead.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment among over-50s has risen by a third since 2019.

Based on the number of workers furloughed in August, the charity estimated more than 400,000 over-50s could be made redundant when the furlough scheme ends.

The report found no evidence that employers use approaches specifically aimed at de-biasing the recruitment process for older workers.

It also found very little evidence that employers evaluate the effectiveness of initiatives that are meant to reduce discrimination more generally.

Jenny Holmes, HR research consultant at the Institute for Employment Studies (IES), which partnered the report, said that age should not be overlooked when employers are considering diversity and inclusion.

“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,” she said.

“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.”

Holmes suggested that employers collect and analyse age data in recruitment the same way they track gender, ethnicity and disability .

Ornella Nsio, campaigns and government relations manager at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, said that the number of workers over 50 is set to increase by 1 million by 2022.

“This is why it's in the interests of both employers and the economy to ensure older workers are not overlooked in the recruitment process,” she said.

To make sure older workers are considered on their merits rather than written off, Nsio recommended businesses rethink their recruitment process and adapt to more inclusive recruitment techniques.

She added: “They will miss out on a wealth of talent and experience if they don’t do so.”

Further reading:

Pandemic forces early retirement in over 50s

De-biasing language in job adverts

Businesses must take action on age in the workplace