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Reaping the benefits of age diversity in the workplace

By Sophie Butler on 19 Oct 2015

Age discrimination can affect people of all ages, but it is a particular
problem for older people, despite the fact that there are many reasons why recruiting older people at work is beneficial. The department for work and pensions report that 27 percent of the current workforce are over 50. By 2020 it will be a third. The working population is getting older, the pension gap is getting bigger, and people are working longer.

There is no average employer, everyone has individual goals. However all staff at any age want to work for a fair employer, be trained and perform well at their job and have flexibility. This month we look at how and why you should be age diverse in your recruitment.

Why be age diverse

Many of the over retirement age simply don’t want to retire; made up of strong morals and work ethics, they feel they still have a lot to contribute. Baby boomers have had years of experience, achieving many of their career aspirations. Now they have typically paid off their mortgage and are seeking a role that can offer more job satisfaction and the opportunity to give something back.  

It is against the law to either refuse to recruit or to dismiss someone on the grounds of age, as well as discriminate either directly or indirectly in any other way, unless it can be objectively justified. If you are not age diverse in your recruitment methods, you are vulnerable to skills shortages; the CIPD recently reported that the ‘mass exodus’ of older workers has left organisations lacking skilled and experienced employees. You also risk low morale, early exiting of staff, poor performance, loss of experience that staff have gained over the years, and age discrimination claims.  Despite these risks we still see candidates that have faced age discrimination.

The not for profit sector should be leading change. Older employees are more likely to hit the ground running, salary expectations and career progression are low on the list of priorities, they are more likely to stay in the same post longer and more likely to bring extra added value to both the role and wider organisation. The CIPD reported that the UK economy could struggle to fill as many as one million jobs by 2035, by employing older workers you have the advantage of hiring from a pool of skilled jobseekers that others may not be taking advantage of.

How to be age diverse

There are several stages in the recruitment process from advertising, selection, interviewing and appointment to consider:


Think about your wording throughout the recruitment process, for example, using the word ‘experienced’ can inadvertently discriminate against younger candidates. Instead focus on the job itself and the skills required. You should also avoid descriptive words such as ‘lively’ which could give the impression you are looking for a younger worker.


Application forms traditionally asked for date of birth (a definite no-no these days) and dates of previous employment and specific qualifications. These can result in judgement and assumptions and deter people from applying. For example, don’t request ‘GCSE qualifications’, instead ask for school/ college qualifications.


Staff that are responsible for hiring should be trained in equal opportunities and age diversity. Ensure your interviewers are not asking questions regarding age or assumptions made about age. Don’t assume that they are over-qualified and too experienced. Instead make the most of their skills and experience, regardless of age and see how they can fit into your organisation.


We are at a time where skills shortages do exist, so ensure you have flexible training to meet the requirements of all staff. These should be addressed in inductions. If you are struggling to fill a role, consider making it more attractive for older workers. This can include offering flexible working, mentoring/ becoming a mentor.

Promoting age diversity

In order to support age diversity consider age profiling, keeping an on-going record of the age of all job applicants (from equal opportunities forms,) short-listed and interviews and appointees. This can then help assess whether your recruitment process is successful with age diversity.

Ensure your equal opportunities policy promotes equality for sex, race, disability and age. Look at flexible working policies, phased retirement and mentoring schemes

Retaining older workers

Not only is it important to hire older workers, but you need to retain them. Typical retention incentives include flexible working policies, training managers to have the confidence in managing experienced staff with a different skill set to their own, and making full use of the older workers’ skills (this could include them training other staff where skills are short.)

Useful links:

Read the department for Work and Pensions report on employing older workers