‘Ageism alive and well in Norfolk’ says man who can’t get a job because he’s 50
Employers have been urged to recruit more older people after ageism was said to be 'alive and well' in the workplace in Norfolk.
Discrimination regarding age is illegal but some firms are still opting for the younger - and often cheaper - job applicants leaving those aged 50-plus out in the cold.
Dan Skipper, CEO of Age UK Norwich, called for change. He said: "People aren't retiring at 65 anymore, 12% of men and 8% of women are working beyond the state retirement age and that trend is only going to grow. As the world of work changes employers need to leverage the experience and knowledge which older workers can bring."
The issue arose after a 50-year-old man with extensive business experience contacted this newspaper stating he was experiencing ageism.
Stephen Davies, from Swaffham, who is married with a 17-year-old son, had his contract as a degree apprenticeship development officer at City College Norwich abruptly ended after 18 months, two years early.
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Despite applying for 30 jobs online in one week alone, Mr Davies, who was a business advisor earning £40,000 a year before taking the £29,000 post at City College, is still looking for work.
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He said he felt his age was hampering job offers, particularly with recruitment agencies.
"It was a big shock," said Mr Davies. "During that first week I was really down about it and it's the recruitment agencies, they say they will call you back but you never hear from them again. I asked one recently to be honest with me and they said: 'ideally you need to be around 30.'
"Despite having grown and nurtured an extremely large database of businesses, being qualified to a decent level and possessing 34 years of experience in and around business, I have come to the unfortunate conclusion that age plays a huge part when it is time to search for a new position. Ageism is alive and well in Norfolk."
Last year, MPs revealed more than one million people aged over 50 nationwide were being locked out of the workplace.
The government's business champion for older workers, Andy Briggs, former CEO of Aviva Life UK, with its HQ in Norwich, said employers needed to increase the number of staff in the 50-70 year old age bracket by 12% by 2022. It comes as nearly 10,000 businesses were set up by entrepreneurs over the age of 60 in the past year nationwide.
Alistair McQueen, head of savings and retirement at Aviva in Norwich, said: "Aviva UK has about 3,500 employees aged 50 and over. In Norwich alone, we have about 1,000 in this age group. At Aviva we want to create an environment where age is no barrier to opportunity. And we are putting our money where our mouth is by investing in training, development and support for all ages. We are investing in apprenticeships for all ages, with our oldest apprentice in his late 60s and we have introduced 'mid-life MOTs" to help our people aged 45-and-over consider their wealth, work and wellbeing at this important time in their life."
Ageism in the workplace has also been debated recently by local business leaders who are members of the Cambridge-Norwich Tech Corridor.
At its inaugural meeting of its 'talent taskforce' at Howes Percival in Norwich, the subject was top of the agenda. Member Jim Marshall, of hiring consultancy Marshall Wolfe, with offices in London and Suffolk, said: "We urge employers to create an inclusive environment regarding gender, age and race because by creating diversity, they will be so much more productive."
The Norfolk Chamber of Commerce also promotes older people in the workplace and recently backed the creation and development of a new recruitment agency for people aged 45 and more, Greydient Jobs.
Meanwhile, Will Palgrave-Moore, associate director at Cooper Lomaz Recruitment, with an office in Norwich, and which were not contacted by Mr Davies, said: "We advise any candidate, regardless of their age, to use all of the tools available to help promote themselves to potential companies."
A spokesperson for City College Norwich, said: "As an employer, City College Norwich recognises the many benefits of recruiting employees of all ages into the organisation, particularly in terms of the professional experience, industry knowledge, and connections they bring with them.
"Mr Davies was appointed to a fixed-term, project-funded post, through the Network for East Anglian Collaborative Outreach. The second phase of the national funding for the project unfortunately meant we could not extend the post for a further academic year."
The law on ageism:
Discrimination or unfair treatment on the basis of age, is now against the law in almost all cases. If you experience behaviour that makes you feel humiliated, degraded or intimidated because of your age, this is classed as discrimination.
The Equality Act covers your treatment in the workplace by employers and when you apply for a job. When advertising a job role, employers can't include age limits and should avoid terminology which suggests they are looking for a particular age group such as '10 years' experience' or 'enthusiastic young people' or 'recent graduates.' They can ask for your date of birth but should keep this separate from the application and not use it as a deciding factor. If you feel you have experienced ageism, you should follow your employer's grievance procedure or you an seek free advice from Acas or the Equality Advisory and Support Service.