Significant numbers of older employees feel they are being discriminated against at work because of their age, including believing they have been turned down for jobs (9%) and being offered fewer opportunities for training and progression (32%), according to a survey published recently. The findings from a YouGov poll of more than 1,100 employees over the age of 50, commissioned by the Centre for Ageing Better, are detailed in a new report launched today to help employers better support older workers. The report, published in partnership with Business in the Community, sets out practical steps for employers to create a more supportive, age-positive culture and boost the candidate pool of older workers.

The survey shows that, since turning 50, 14% of over-50 employees believe they have been turned down for a job due to their age and nearly one in five (18%) have or have considered hiding their age in job applications. Nearly half (46%) think their age would disadvantage them in applying for a job and one in five think people see them as less capable due to their age.

A third of those surveyed (32%) feel they have fewer opportunities for training and progression, 29% don’t think their workplace values older workers and 28% don’t think their managers are good at managing mixed-age teams. Few feel able to talk with managers about future career plans (28%), adjusting their current role (e.g. moving to flexible working) (25%) or retirement (24%).

Age is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act. While 40% of employees over the age of 50 think their workplace has a policy related to preventing age discrimination, nearly half of these people (47%) say it has made no difference.

Lack of support for older workers causes many employees to leave work prematurely. DWP figures show that less than half of people work in the year before they reach State Pension age. Businesses that don’t retain and recruit older workers could face a labour and skills shortage as experienced staff leave and there are too few younger candidates to replace them, the report warns.

The Centre for Ageing Better is urging employers to adopt five steps to an age-friendly workplace to ensure they are ready for the ageing workforce:

  1. Be flexible about flexible working: Offer more flexibility, manage it well and help people know their options
  2. Hire age-positively: Actively target candidates of all ages, and minimise age bias in recruitment processes
  3. Ensure everyone has the health support they need: Enable early and open conversations, and early and sustained access to support for workers with health conditions
  4. Encourage career development at all ages: Provide opportunities for people to develop their careers and plan for the future at mid-life and beyond
  5. Create an age-positive culture: Equip HR professionals and managers to promote an age-positive culture, and support interaction and networking among staff of all ages

Enabling more people to be in fulfilling work for longer is a win-win for the economy, providing increased tax revenues and lowering the welfare bill. Halving the employment gap between workers aged 50 to State Pension age and those in their late-40s could see nominal GDP increase by 1% (up to £20 billion per year at 2017 prices).

Evidence shows that older workers do not crowd out younger workers. On the contrary, increasing overall employment levels leads to economic growth, increased demand and a further increase in available jobs for people of all ages.