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Seeing beyond age discrimination myths

As we’re all living – and working – for longer, the age range in most workplaces is becoming broader. In some cases, there can be an age gap of 50 years or more between staff. All diversity enriches the work culture, but it can require some education to manage it effectively.

ACAS recently published a fact sheet on their top 10 myths around age discrimination, such as the misconception among employers that older staff are more likely to be off work ill (when research shows that sickness absence rates are actually similar across all age groups).

We’ve got over 70 years’ recruitment experience between us and we deal with companies of all shapes and sizes who are looking to fill jobs in Basingstoke, so we recognised quite a few scenarios on the ACAS list.

Not only that, we were reminded of some of the benefits of employing an age diverse workforce, so we’re here to share those with all you HR and Recruitment Managers out there…

Myth: Older people staying in work stops young people getting a job.

Fact: There’s no evidence for this. Forecasts suggest more older staff will be needed to stay in work.

Benefit: A wide range of ages in your department provides opportunities for staff to learn from one another. Swapping tech skills, sharing the wisdom of hindsight and experience, blending fresh ideas with tried and tested methods – these are just some of the ways you’ll enhance your knowledge base when you employ people across all age groups.

Myth: Talking to employees over 50 about their future work plans risks employers being accused of age discrimination.

Fact: An employer can ask an employee, no matter what their age, about their work plans in the short, medium and long term. But an employer must not design a different set of questions because of their age.

Benefit: Open discussions with employees about their future plans can help you understand what drives them, as well as allowing you to forecast costs, identify training opportunities, and tackle succession planning for retirement, sabbaticals, and parental leave (perhaps by introducing flexible working and/or job shares).

Myth: It’s ok for an employer to ask a job applicant “Would you able to manage a team of people older than you?”

Fact: This is the wrong question. Try asking “Tell me about your management experience” and “Give me an example of how you manage difficult situations.”

Benefit: By reviewing your interview questions and strategy, you’ll get a much more realistic response from the applicants. Devise questions that will give you quality insight into who they really are. Remember – the interview process is also an advert for your company, so make sure candidates leave with the impression that you are an inclusive employer, not one that discriminates.

Myth: An employer looking to fill a demanding position can decide to interview only people between 30 and 45 to hire someone with a strong sense of responsibility.

Fact: No, it can’t. Applicants must be selected for interview based on the skills, knowledge and experience necessary for the role.

Benefit: Why limit your candidate pool by making assumptions like these?  There will be people of all ages and diversities eligible for the role. Just because someone is younger, doesn’t mean they won’t have leadership spirit. Likewise, an older candidate might not be prepared to shoulder responsibility if they lack confidence. It’s a candidate led market these days, so keep your options open.

Myth: An employer is unlikely to get investment back in training staff over 55 and under 25 as they are both likely to move on in the future.

Fact: As technology moves ever faster, most skill sets need updating frequently while the shelf-life of training to get there gets less and less. So all staff, regardless of age and the organisation too, are likely to benefit from training.

Benefit: People leave companies for a multitude of reasons but lack of training is often cited as a key factor. Without training, your business will fall behind competitors and staff morale will stagnate. On the flipside, when you invest in your training programme and shout about it in your recruitment process, you’ll attract candidates with a hunger to learn – which is always positive news for your business. Candidates with that attitude are highly valuable – at every age.

Myth: It’s ok for recruitment agencies to only send on applications from anyone under 50 because they know the employer won’t interview anyone older.

Fact: Apart from in very limited circumstances where applicants need to be a particular age (for insurance purposes as an example), an agency must not filter applications this way and should not pass over details on applicants’ ages.  If it does, both agency and employer are likely to be discriminating.

Benefit: Recruitment agents are consultants that are paid for their expertise. When you’re working with them, allow them to search a broad pool of candidates and explain why they feel that person is relevant to your role – no matter how old they are. If you limit your choice based on age, you could be missing out on a future employee who has the personality and skills that will help you surpass your business goals.

Recruiting for jobs in Basingstoke? Wote Street People can help with you find the right staff, from 16 to 70+! Just give us a call on 01256 799 127 or call maxine@wotestreetpeople.co.uk

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