Over-55s feel full force of workplace ageism

over-55sMore than two thirds (68 percent) of over-55s feel that the job market is closed to them, despite one in four wanting to work into their 80s, according to a study commissioned by 55/Redefined and ProAge.

The research claims that a quarter (24 percent) of over-55s felt forced to retire before they wanted to. When it comes to applying for roles, 60 percent believe that it is difficult to apply for a job in their chosen career.

The ‘Shut out, forced out and overlooked’ study examines the level of ageism experienced among the older workforce. For currently employed over-55s, almost two thirds (64 percent) are not getting leadership training, and a third have lost interest in their job due to lack of development opportunities.

As well as discrimination within roles, older workers face an even greater challenge in recruitment, particularly from younger HR leaders. Only 24 percent of HR leaders aged 25-30 were ‘very’ willing or motivated to recruit workers aged 55–75, a stark contrast to the 63 percent of older HR leaders aged 46-50.

Lyndsey Simpson, founder and CEO at 55/Redefined, said: “Our research reveals that over 55s want to work and progress, but feel shut out, forced out or overlooked when it comes to their later life careers.

“Ageism is clearly still a reality for many. At a time when we are all living and working longer, it is in all our interests to stamp out this unfair and unacceptable discrimination. Worryingly, our study found that age discrimination is being perpetuated by the people that control HR policy and standards. This could perhaps be an unintended consequence of focusing exclusively on other protected diversity and inclusion characteristics.

“HR leaders and CEOs must address this issue urgently, realising the talent and ambitions of older people – bringing age bias in the workplace to an end.”

Recent ONS data on the impact of COVID-19 on employment for the over-50s highlighted they were more likely to experience reductions in working hours and accounted for more than a quarter of the 1.3m people furloughed. Three in 10 over-50s on furlough believe there is a chance they will lose their job when furlough ends.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] “At a time when we are all living and working longer, it is in all our interests to stamp out this unfair and unacceptable discrimination.”   [/perfectpullquote]

Simpson, added: “By 2050, the under-55 working-age population will have shrunk by around 20 percent in Western countries. Pair this with the impact of the pandemic which is disproportionately and adversely affecting older individuals, and we’ve got a serious shortfall in the workforce. The population of over 60s in the same timeframe will grow by 40 percent, so forward-thinking firms that tackle ageism and capitalise on the value of older workers now, will be the winners.”

Dominic John, Trustee at ProAge, said: “This research is exactly why ProAge exists, because of the disappointing truth that older people, with so much to offer, still feel underinvested in and overlooked in the workplace. Unlike other diversity and inclusion strategies and as for all the current efforts, it’s clear more work needs to be done.

“Businesses must be more age aware; stamping out discrimination and making themselves an attractive employer for older workers to tackle talent shortages and unlock huge economic benefit of this driven and valuable workforce.”

While many over-55s feel overlooked, more than a quarter (28 percent) of the 200 employers surveyed said that staff over the age of 55 are not thought of any differently to younger employees.

For the three quarters of business (72 percent) who need help to tackle ageism, 55/Redefined and ProAge have published guidance for employers looking to attract, retain or retrain the over-55s.



1. Be bias active – Understand the level of bias that exists already in your organisation against age and deliver training and insight whilst taking action to address misplaced stereotypes or the unintended consequences of focusing on other diversity areas.
2. Flex appeal – Encourage people to stay in the workforce for longer, by creating new flexible roles that appeal to this over-55 talent pool. These could be permanent roles at three or four days per week, through to rehiring retired professionals for key periods of the year on flexible contracts.
3. The will to skill – Invest in technical training and reskilling of this age group – current and new employees. Investigate if you can create schemes targeting this age group or hiring cohorts of over-55s for in-demand roles that require technical or industry training.
4. Change tack – Stop hiring on previous experience and technical fit, instead focusing on soft skills, behaviour, motivation, and cultural fit criteria. Support hiring managers to make this transition by creating new ways of recruiting and assessing talent that help encourage inclusivity for all.
5. Engage the age – Get to know your existing over-55 workforce and be proactive in asking them what they want and how best you can support them to remain engaged in work for longer.

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