It’s hard to get a job over the age of 50 – ageism at work

It’s hard to get a job over the age of 50 – ageism at work

We are missing a trick when it comes to a skills gap and apparent labour shortage. We have the resources, we have the people, we are just blind to the fact that people over 50, able and willing to work, are simply ignored in recruitment processes. 

There is a whole swathe of invisible and involuntarily unemployed people who are both skilled and diligent, who are being left on the metaphorical scrap heap. Often, these are people that were planning to retire in the next ten years but have been the victims of large-scale redundancy schemes or commercial plans to scale back resources, where those over 50 are often targeted for being too expensive to retain and more difficult to train/re-train.

We cannot have it both ways. How can it be possible to say that we need more people working and then, in front of our very eyes, have people desperate to work, desperate to contribute and earn their keep.  This is a generation that is prepared to put in the hours, that does not apply onerous and restrictive boundaries when it comes to what work they will do and, in essence, simply want to useful and not put out to pasture before they are ready.

The scale of the problem is vast. Experienced, dynamic and motivated individuals are applying for jobs over and over and are met with the same rejection. Not even rejection: deathly silence. The applications do not even warrant a response.  

We are increasingly bringing in labour from overseas, the care sector springs to mind, but we have a labour pool domestically that could be used.  It may be a sector issue, it may be a pay issue, but there is clearly some form of bias (conscious or unconscious) towards recruiting staff over the age of 50. This may relate to the abolition of the default retirement age and a fear from employers that it is impossible to sack older workers without being age discriminatory.

I also think that may be even more the case for women over 50 who are now blighted by the increase in discussion of menopause and associated symptoms. The spotlight has been shone, highlighting the impact on women, which, in some parts is a positive, but I can see the negatives as well. Women of child-rearing age are an issue as they will have babies, women over 50 are an issue as they might suffer crazy menopause symptoms and unravel on the spot – rarely the case but the stigma is there.

Back to the focus of ageism at work. Talented labour over the age of 50 is being ignored in this country.  We are blatantly ageist despite the population living longer and people starting families later. The narrative needs to shift and recognition needs to be given to the fact that the labour shortage resolution is in front of our faces. The forgotten 50s are willing and able to work. People should be employed on the basis of skill and competency. Age should not be a defining factor.

This blog was written by Elizabeth McGlone, Partner at didlaw