Ageism in the Workplace

5 months ago by Sophie Stones

Ageism in the Workplace


Popular cartoon, The Simpsons, has courted controversy in the past, however their issues have mostly stemmed from external issues. This month, that all changed, as a long-running composer, Alf Clausen, who scored more than 560 episodes of the show and was responsible for tunes like “We Put the Spring in Springfield” and “You’re Checkin’ In (A Musical Tribute To The Betty Ford Center)” (both of which won Emmy awards) filed a suit against Fox. Claiming that his dismissal in 2017 was due to ‘ageism and disability’ discrimination, 78-year-old Clausen is the next in a longline of older workers who despite wanting to continue working have been asked to leave their roles.

Despite Fox’s claims that they were simply “taking the music in a different direction”, the World Health Organization say that age discrimination is an “incredibly prevalent and insidious problem” and although there are laws to protect people in all stages of employment, from recruitment, to promotions, to dismissals, we all know it is going on.

In the UK, the default retirement age was scrapped in 2011, meaning that technically workers can’t be forced to retire, and yet there are establishments who are finding a way around this. Oxford University implemented the Employer Justified Retirement Age in 2017, in order to ensure that older professors retire and make way for a new generation of younger and more ethnically diverse scholars. However, whilst their aims may be grounded in positive actions, the EJRA has been deemed unethical by some.

In fact, leading Shakespeare Professor John Pitcher, claimed he’s been unfairly pushed out of his role, but his claims were dismissed at an employment tribunal earlier this year.

These issues may appear to be the worries of retirement age workers, yet surveys are showing that the younger generation are also being affected by age-related discrimination, with Fairy God Boss finding that one in three respondents had experienced ageism before turning 45. The most common instances include negative comments from colleagues about their age and being passed over for a job opportunity.

Unfortunately, the latter is relatively difficult to prove, as employers can suggest there are other issues, with everything from training to cultural fit on the cards. Employees worried about being perceived as ‘over the hill’ are targeting this by seeking out training in their field as a way to dodge discrimination and ensure their claims are watertight, if it does come to a tribunal.

Companies that are allowing ageism to be pervasive within their workforce and/or recruitment process are not only opening themselves up to lawsuits, but also neglecting to get the most out of possible recruits. Studies show that a company with a diverse range of generations does significantly better than a monotonous one and it is this that is leading those businesses committed to change, to implement schemes like reverse mentoring, which, benefiting both parties, has been found to increase retention by 20% within 5 years.