Anti-ageism code needs a promotional helping hand

first_imgRelated posts:No related photos. Comments are closed. TheGovernment is failing to promote its code on age diversity and employers havenot got the message yet about introducing policies to recruit and retain anolder workforce. Karen Higginbottom reports on the wide-ranging calls forgreater effortsThecode of practice on age diversity is failing to have an impact on ageism in theUK workforce two years after its introduction.Twopieces of recent research, one by the Government itself, suggests that manylarge employers haven’t even heard of the code – the Government’s code ofpractice on Age Diversity in Employment. While some cannot see the urgency ofadopting the code – age discrimination legislation does not come into forceuntil 2006 – others simply do not know anything about the code.Areport by IRS Management Review and the Employers Forum on Age shows that onlyone in four employers has adopted the code.Italso claims that only half of the 105 large organisations which responded haveput in place, or are planning to implement, policies and practices specificallyaimed at recruiting and retaining older workers. These organisations employ1.25 million staff. Thereport claims that the Government has failed to communicate the businessimplications of demographic change.ManyHR professionals agree. As Juris Grinbergs, HR director of Littlewoods,commented, “I haven’t seen a massive amount of activity from theGovernment.”Thereis a strong business case for the Government to promote the code harder.RayBaker, employment and diversity controller for B&Q, who is also on themanagement board of the Employers Forum on Age, is unsurprised by theresearch’s findings. He said, “These results go to the heart of theguidelines for most companies. Unless employers start understanding the businessbenefits of older workers a lot of companies will continue as they are.”Bakerargues that while legislation won’t be in place until 2006, employers shouldact now because of skill shortages and an already ageing population. Thedemographics support his argument. There are 18.9 million people aged 50 andover in the UK, representing 40 per cent of the UK workforce.Eventhe Government’s own research is critical. A report by the employment selectcommittee claims that only 37 per cent of employers are aware of the code. Itsays the code has been insufficiently publicised and raised doubts as towhether it would prove effective in changing company policy. It also suggeststhere is a problem with HR managers effectively disseminating information aboutthe code within organisations.Employmentand equal opportunities minister Margaret Hodge admitted to the selectcommittee on education and employment that more work needed to be done to speedup employers’ rate of changing practices on age discrimination.Hodgeremains defiant over the Government’s commitment to combating discrimination,however. She said, “The demographic changes that will occur within thelabour market mean the economy will not survive without using the talents andexperience of older workers.” In its defence, the Government points to itsnew age-positive campaign which it launched two weeks ago, in partnership withthe CIPD.TheCIPD is sending out mail-shots to its members to highlight the benefits ofemploying a diverse age workforce. But few believe that it is enough. Bakerbelieves the Government hasn’t pushed hard enough to communicate the advantagesof a mixed age workforce. He recommends the Government gets chief executives onboard to raise awareness of the issues.Grinbergsargues that the Government has to go beyond piecemeal initiatives. “Agediversity policies have to become part of the mainstream employmentpolicy,” he said.Theeconomic benefits of an older workforce are clear. Research by the EmployersForum on Age shows that two- thirds of employers believe the most importantcharacteristic that older workers bring to their workplace is their experience,followed by commitment and customer handling skills.”Olderworkers are more financially secure and less likely to job hop. This often leadsto a more stable workforce,” said Grinbergs. Littlewoods employs asubstantial number of older workers among its 27,000 workforce, he claims.Theresearch also shows that while two-thirds of employers monitor the age profileof their workforce, few are examining recruitment and training decisions forage bias.Bakersaid, “Employers have to design their recruitment and training policies tocheck for age bias. Some employers have race, disability, age and gender builtinto their equal opportunities policy but whether they do anything about it isanother matter.”Theoverriding message from the two surveys of age diversity shows that thevoluntary code of practice has had a negligible impact on employers.Butemployers should be introducing age diversity policies well before 2006.Eversheds lawyer Martin Hopkins claimed at a recent conference, “Agediversity is a critical issue and on which employers must act on now. We areadvising them not to wait for the introduction of legislation.”ManyHR experts believe the Government must grasp this opportunity to highlight thebusiness case for employing older workers as the research indicates thismessage is not getting through to UK employers.SamMercer, campaign director of the Employers Forum on Age, urges the Governmentto learn from its mistakes. She said, “While we believe the code is avaluable document, its failure to make a significant impact reinforces the viewthat more must be done to convince employers of the business benefits of anage-diverse workforce. Anti-ageism code needs a promotional helping handOn 10 Apr 2001 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Articlelast_img

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