Age discrimination leads to underachievement, reduced self confidence and motivation, low self esteem and loss of income and status. Yet more people are living longer, more active and healthier lives and this, combined with the skills shortages in our industry, should be harnessed to create real business benefits. We should be attracting and retaining members regardless of age, provided their continuing performance suits the demands of the business practice.
What does the law say?
There is no law against age discrimination in employment in the UK and available evidence does not make a strong case for legal action to remove it.
The Government's voluntary Code of Practice for Age Diversity in Employment, launched in June 1999, has focused attention on age issues.
The code sets out good practice principles to adopt in recruitment, selection, promotion, training and development, redundancy and retirement.
What are leading companies doing?
Many companies, like Ove Arup & Partners, recognise the value of experience and adopt a positive approach towards older staff. Company policy that achieves the employment of an agediverse workforce combines wise heads with youthful enthusiasm.
Partial retirement and flexible working arrangements are just two examples of what can be done to retain older staff.
What are the business benefits?
Some employers recognise that older workers can represent a knowledgeable, experienced, reliable and stable workforce. Unless the Institution and others take positive action to lessen age discrimination and promote an age diverse workforce, this huge skill resource will be irretrievably lost to the profession.
Who can help?
The Employers Forum on Age (EFA) is a leading organisation which will help us to tackle issues related to age. EFA deals with age and employment in the UK and operates as a network of over 150 employers, many of whom have reported tangible business benefits as a result of creating an age diverse workforce.
What is the Institution doing?
The Institution, in its determination to be proactive, in spreading this important message throughout the Industry, is itself an Associate member of the EFA. It has also established an EOF with a brief that includes advising members on age and other equal opportunity related matters.
David Loosemore is an associate director of Ove Arup & Partners.