This blog post was written by Ryan Jones for Impression. Ryan is the SEO Specialist at Land of Rugs, one of the UK’s leading online rug retailers. Inside of work, Ryan likes to make jokes that he “dreams in featured snippets” as lame as that may be, and outside of work he has many hobbies including playing football, basketball and car racing. If you have any questions about this blog or would like to connect with Ryan, you can find him on LinkedIn and also Twitter.
As part of our Representation in Tech series, Ryan has explored the topic of age discrimination.
I’d like to draw attention to an issue close to my heart: Age discrimination in the workplace. A common misconception is that it generally only happens to older workers, whether they’re being deliberately left out when it comes to making decisions on hiring and promotions, or whether it’s simply the prejudice that they’re stuck in their ways, have their own way of doing things and that they are never going to change that.
Not only is this unfair to the older generation, but it is also completely untrue. I have spoken to many business owners on this topic and almost all of them agree that older workers can come in with a fresh set of ideas, sometimes ideas that current employees already embedded within the business have never thought of before. This is before we mention the years of experience they have in the field.
Not only does it happen to the older generation, but it happens to younger people, too! And it is actually more common than you may believe. I am 21 years old and have already been working in the SEO and digital marketing industry for nearly 6 years and I am not ashamed to say that I have been the victim of age discrimination in the workplace. I say that I am not ashamed of it because it has made me the marketer, and the man that I am today. In this article, I’m going to talk about the different types of age discrimination, why it happens in the workplace and what employers can do to raise awareness of the issue. Yes, that’s right, it may be happening right under your nose.
What is age discrimination?
Simply put… Age discrimination means someone is treated unequally because of their age, or the age range they are a part of. For example, someone may be put forward for redundancy instead of a younger person if they are in the over-50 category. Or someone may be less likely to be put up for a promotion because they are younger and are perceived to have less experience than someone within an older age bracket.
This article from Landau Law explains it very well.
Thanks to the Equality Act of 2010, it is now illegal to discriminate against someone based solely on their age. This does not mean it doesn’t happen though. No matter what the Equality Act says, age discrimination is common.
Let’s spend a little bit of time and talk about what this may look like.
What does age discrimination look like?
Age discrimination looks very different depending on the size of the company, how old you are and what situation you are in. For example, age discrimination will look totally different if you are a 22-year-old aiming for a promotion or a 54-year-old facing redundancy. Promotion opportunities should be available to all employees regardless of their age and age should not be a deciding factor when considering redundancies.
To provide you with further context and give you an idea of what age discrimination may look like, I’ve shared a real-life example that was experienced by one of my close friends during their career. In this case, a younger worker is overlooked and their capabilities underestimated.
A story close to my heart
One of my closest friends works in sales. He started his career at the same age as me (16) by going into a marketing apprenticeship. He quickly realised that marketing is not his passion and therefore finished his apprenticeship in marketing and moved into a sales role with the same company. He has always understood that he needed to work harder than most people within the business, especially as the other members of the sales team had years more experience in the industry than he did! This really has never bothered him, he has an amazing work ethic.
This was all working great until he started to see aspects of age discrimination creeping into his professional life. He noticed some of his direct managers starting to ask for categorised lists of the things he was working on every single day. He then found he was being asked to update them at the end of each and every day on what he had got done, what he hadn’t been able to get done, why these tasks did not get done and how he was going to get the tasks done in the next few working days.
It started to occur to him, and this became even more clear after conversations with his family, that maybe his superiors thought he wasn’t able to be as efficient as older members of the organisations he worked at. He started to realise he was being left out of discussions that directly impacted him and his role, and that maybe he didn’t have as much of a say within these businesses as he thought he was entitled to.
Other forms of age discrimination
This happens every single day! It doesn’t happen to everyone and it’s not easy to spot in some cases. As I’ve mentioned earlier, you may also be experiencing age discrimination if you are being held back from promotions often in place of older employees. Or, you may be experiencing age discrimination if you realise you and your older colleagues are being put forward for redundancy in place of younger employees. You may even be applying for a new role and constantly being overlooked and you find these roles are being filled by younger people.
This doesn’t this happen in every single business, to every single employee. The vast majority of people will get along fine in all of their roles, but there’s a risk that if you are older or younger, you are more likely to become a victim of age discrimination in your workplace. In fact, one in three older workers face age discrimination.
Now to round off the article, I want to talk about how employers can be more inclusive with their staff to reduce any risk of age discrimination taking place under their watch.
How employers can be more inclusive
There are some simple things that you and your company can do to ensure you are being fair when it comes to hiring, firing, promoting and paying your staff. Let’s talk about how some of the most common types of age discrimination can be avoided by adding simple processes into place.
When hiring staff, especially bringing someone into the business from outside the corporation, I am assuming you may promote vacancies on big job boards such as Indeed, CV Library, LinkedIn jobs and others. You may also hire a recruiter to look for suitable candidates for you. Hiring a diverse workforce is incredibly important and the best way to find the person who is right for the job is to simply put them forward if their CV suggests they’ll be able to perform well in the role.
Something else hiring managers can do, is to ask candidates to blank out their D.O.B (date of birth) on their CV so you have no idea how old the candidate is when you are looking at the CV. I know what you’re going to say, and it is true that you’ll be able to gain some insight into how old the candidate is when you look at their experience, but this shouldn’t be the deciding factor in who you interview.
It’s simple – if you believe a candidate could add value to your company, invite them to the phone screening or first interview stage.
The same kind of rule applies when you are in the unfortunate position of having to let staff go. It is important not to look at the ages of people you are considering letting go. This is especially important when it comes to redundancies. You need to be looking purely at their performance. Are they performing in accordance with their compensation? Are they efficient? And most importantly, have you exhausted all options to try to keep them within the business? It’s important to know it’s illegal to let someone go because you don’t like them or because they are old or young.
To finish off the article, I want to talk about compensation. We first need to clear something up! There is a vital difference between paying someone less because they really are less experienced, and paying someone less just because of their age. Using myself as an example, I am 21 and have 6 years of experience in the industry. Realistically, I would expect to be paid more than a graduate (who may well be older) coming into a business on the basis that I have more experience. This experience offers a lot of value to a business, therefore it’s fair that I am compensated in line with the value that I can bring.
If you’re looking to ensure there are no issues when it comes to paying your staff, the simple solution is to stick to the predetermined average salaries, and don’t go above this. You could also implement salary bandings and share this with your team for complete transparency. This way, you know you are being fair for every single person that joins your business. If you do come across someone truly special (it happens) and want to compensate them a little more than other staff because of what they can bring to your organisation, there are many different ways you can do this without going purely on salary. For example, you can pay them a one-off ‘signing bonus’ to convince them to join, offer them some additional benefits or even stock options (if you’re publicly traded). There are a whole host of options you can explore without looking at salary explicitly.
This section contains further resources to help both employers and employees.
- How can I prevent age discrimination in the workplace? – Monster
- Ageism at work – what are your rights? – AgeUK
- A guide on age discrimination – Acas
So, there we have it. Age discrimination, whilst not necessarily thought of as a huge issue, happens incredibly regularly. It doesn’t just happen to older employees as it is prejudice. But more importantly, there are some very simple processes and methods you can look into adding to your business when it comes to staffing issues to ensure you are being fair to every single person who walks through your door.