Report calls for tougher action to clamp down on age discrimination

Leaving employers to police age discrimination and bias is not preventing outdated employment practices and attitudes and stronger enforcement is needed, according to the Women and Equalities Committee.

Older workers, working mum


The Women and Equalities Committee’s report says that, although employer-led initiatives on age discrimination have some advantages, enforcement is weak and the enforcement body the Equality and Human Rights Commission is failing to uphold the law on age discrimination.

It wants to see the EHRC agreeing specific enforcement actions across both the public and private sectors. It adds that recruitment agencies should accept greater responsibility for collecting data on where older workers are being excluded and developing a plan of action to remove discrimination from the recruitment process.

Age discrimination is a serious problem

Maria Miller, Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, said: “Age discrimination in the workplace is a serious problem, as many older people have discovered. Yet despite it being unlawful for more than a decade, the scale and lack of enforcement uncovered by our inquiry is both alarming and totally unacceptable.

“The Government and the EHRC have failed to get to grips with this. They must be more robust in providing a remedy to potentially unlawful working practices in the recruitment sector. Strategies such as Fuller Working Lives and the Industrial Strategy are not coordinated and lack any plan to ensure that existing legislation is being implemented and enforced.

“As a country we face serious challenges recruiting and retaining an experienced and skilled workforce. Until we tackle discrimination against the growing number of over 50s, they will continue to be consigned to the ‘too old’ pile instead of being part of the solution.

“The business case for an age-diverse workforce is clear. Despite this, employers continue to organise workplaces around an outdated, inflexible model that this inquiry and our past inquiries into fathers in the workplace and the gender pay gap show no longer works. It’s time for a mandatory approach, with flexible working being the default from the time jobs are advertised onwards.”

Understanding the challenges and opportunities of an ageing population is vital if we want to create productive, innovative and inclusive multi-generational teams as we all lead longer working lives. is a job and community site, from the people behind, specially focused on older workers looking for flexibility and improved work-life balance, and the employers who recognise what they have to offer.

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The Committee’s report also finds:

  • The Government “has not paid sufficient attention” to the need for a national assessment of the skills the country will need in the future, and the need to challenge any characterisation of those skills as the preserve of younger people.
  • The business case for an age-diverse workforce is clear but despite this, employers continue to organise workplaces around an outdated, inflexible model that no longer works. It says women are most affected and more needs to be done to make connections between government strategies, local employer support and between the business case and business practice.
  • Flexible working should be the default from the time jobs are advertised onwards as many older workers often take on a range of caring responsibilities.
  • The Government should work with the Business Champion for Older Workers to develop an employer-led mentoring service for businesses who want to adapt but struggle to do so.
  • The public sector should take the lead in adapting to the new realities of an ageing workforce. Government departments should ensure flexible working by default and mid-life career reviews become standard, says the report. It adds that the EHRC should undertake urgent investigations into ways of working which are resulting in a lack of retention of older workers and ensure that this is not the result of discriminatory practices.

*Meanwhile, the latest Office for National Statistics figures show unemployment was 4.2% and employment was 75.7%, the highest since comparable records began in 1971. Yet unfilled vacancies also stands at a record high level of 824,000 and earnings have only risen by  0.4% excluding bonuses, and by 0.2% including bonuses, compared with a year earlier.

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