Older workers hide age to beat bias

New research reveals the lengths older workers are going to in order to find work, with nearly half admitting they have had to lie about their age. But even if they are hired, they still don’t get the same opportunities as young people.

According to a poll of 2,000 workers aged 45-plus by Working Wise, 44% admitted altering their age on their CV to make them seem more attractive to employers.

The admission comes as the same research revealed one-in-three (34%) older workers claimed they had experienced ageism during the interview process.

But the research also found that even if older applicants do make it through the selection process, ageism persists, with training and other opportunities seemingly saved for younger staff.

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It found 54% of over-45s claimed they had been given no access to training 'recently', while 30% believed training was mainly aimed at young people in their organisation. This comes despite the fact 85% of older workers said they were open to acquiring new skills.

Speaking to HR magazine, Gillian Nissim, founder of Working Wise, said the results pointed to shocking behaviour by employers and showed just how much the “cards were stacked against older workers”.

She said: “The statistics around people having to lie about their age seem particularly high. I think the number of older workers that have lost their jobs due to the pandemic has exacerbated this.”

She added: “Whether ageism is conscious or not, people are feeling it, and it’s clear something is going on. It’s almost counter-intuitive though – because employers are also saying they are crying out for talent. There is a whole older generation pool just waiting and wanting to be employed.

“Firms should be embracing these people, for all the wealth of knowledge and diversity of thought they bring.”

The research comes against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen the plight faced by older workers get much worse compared to that for younger people.

The Resolution Foundation recently found the pandemic had caused the largest annual fall in employment for older workers since the 1980s – with the fall in employment among those aged over 50 being twice as large as those aged 25-49.

Working Wise’s own research also chimes with this. It found one in five over 45s had been made redundant since the pandemic began, and 38% of these were still looking for a job more than a year later. Around 16% had been looking for work for between six and 12 months.

Such was the level of ageism that older workers experience, that Work Wise also found 73% of people claimed the length of time it was taking them to find work was now impacting their confidence.

The research also looked into what working arrangements best suit older people. It found 95% said that a good work-life balance was important, while 76% of older workers wanted a better work-life balance than they did when they were younger. More than half (51% said they would consider taking a role that was a job share.

The Equality Act 2010 maked it illegal to discriminate based on age.

Before the pandemic, a record 10.7 million people aged 50+ were in work. This was nearly a third of the UK workforce.

Next week (22-26th November) is Older Workers Week, which seeks to raise the profile of the benefits of hiring and retaining older staff.