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Educate employers about benefits of older workers

Posted on | Posted in Discrimination, Recruitment

The latest report from the Government’s Women and Equalities Committee says older workers still face discrimination and the recruitment industry’s ‘failure to take more robust action has a significant impact on (their) ability to access work’.

Maxine Hart, our Operations Director, has something to say.

Valuing best practice

The report is pretty damning stuff. But something I take task with. As a recruitment agency in Basingstoke, we value best practice and do our utmost to persuade clients to consider the best possible person for the role. Often, we point out where illegal discrimination is, wittingly or unwittingly, taking place.

However, we are on a sticky wicket. If we constantly tell clients they are wrong, they might not be clients for much longer. OK, maybe we don’t want clients like that. But there comes a point where we have to make a commercial decision. Also, by submitting more diverse applications (don’t get me on to CVs, we’ll be here all day) that don’t tally with their ‘ideal’ candidate, we’re seen as useless.

Role of employers

Recruitment agencies are only part of the recruitment process. Particularly when it comes to permanent placements, the employer makes the choice. The agency provides a shortlist and, yes, we should make that as diverse as possible. We also recommend who to interview. But, ultimately, we don’t make the final decision.

I hear you! This sounds like another agency squirming out of taking the blame. But my point is that these findings should be more about educating employers about the wealth of experience candidates from all walks of life can offer. We need to open employers’ eyes and show them that all recruitment is taking a risk. There is no safety net, so there’s little point in hedging for an apparent “safe bet” candidate.

Myths busted

The argument that older workers ‘won’t stay’ doesn’t wash. Anyone who is looking for another job is in a psychological state of flux. They are prepared to take the leap. Once they have done that and survived, they realise that they could do it again. No one stays in a job forever these days. And the reality is that the young person you’ve just recruited is probably more likely to move on than someone older.

Being ‘over qualified’ is another stumbling block for older workers. But if you can get someone with everything and more for the same money, why aren’t you biting their hand off? Oh, I forgot, it’s code for ‘too old’.

You may have guessed that age discrimination is a bug bear of mine! Luckily, I haven’t experienced it personally (yet). As a recruitment agency in Basingstoke working with the M3 Job Club, which is almost entirely made up of professionals who are 45 and over, I see age discrimination is rife.

Recommendations

My recommendation? Educate, educate, educate. Show employers how profitable reaping the rewards of employing and retaining older workers can be. I love the report’s suggestion of ‘mid-life career reviews’. If someone is underperforming, investigate why. Perhaps they could be rejuvenated in another area of business.

My final point to employers is to be careful of allowing so-called ‘solid business reasons’ to influence your decision to not hire an ‘older’ worker.  Ask yourself, is it solid? Is it about business? And if you were on the receiving end of that decision, would you think it was reasonable?

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