Written By: Becky Frith 29/06/15
Age will be included as a consideration in the Business in the Community (BITC) Diversity and Wellbeing Benchmark for the first time in 2015.
Age At Work director for BITC Rachael Saunders told HR magazine that it was included after the organisation was approached by companies concerned about best practice in relation to an ageing workforce.
“We need to consider where people of different ages are in your organisation. Are they being promoted? Are they being recruited? The benchmark is a key tool in that,” she said.
“Quite a number of businesses started to think seriously about age after the government’s report on ageing in 2013. Since then it has really become part of the agenda.”
The benchmark allows organisations to supply metrics to determine their performance on gender, ethnicity, and now age, and compare themselves to others.
According to BITC’s report Missing Millions 10 million people in the UK are over 65 years old, and this number is projected to rise to around 19 million by 2050.
One of the biggest issues faced by older people is discrimination in the hiring process, said Saunders. “It’s really hard to get a job when you’re over 50,” she added. “There’s a real issue with people getting pushed out of work then finding it really hard to get back in.”
It is hoped that the benchmark will also impact the younger generation. Saunders explained work environments will become ever more age diverse, and that benchmarking will help organisations assess and improve their performance in this space.
“If you have people who are working into their seventies with a lifetime of work behind them working closely with digital natives who are used to new ways of communicating, we need to think through the way these different working practices are interacting,” she said.
“We can also work out the potential for opportunities. Someone with lots of experience and fairly set ways of working could learn from digital natives, and equally we need to help young people to make the best of learning from people older then them.”
Saunders added that ageism should be considered in the same terms, and as serious an issue, as racism and sexism.
“While it’s a good thing that some of the really pejorative language that relates to other diversity characteristics is no longer acceptable, phrases like ‘old duffer’ are still seen as okay. We need to unpick some of the assumptions behind the language we use.”