The Equality Act of 2010 lists age as one of the nine protected characteristics. Much discrimination, however, can be the result of unconscious bias, making the issue difficult to pinpoint and address. It has been suggested that a way to address this type of unconscious bias is to ensure that recruiters collect wide-ranging data on sectors and companies where older candidates and employees are not being included. There also needs to be a more detailed deliberate plan on removing unconscious bias about age. One way this could be done is through quotas. However, having quotas does not eliminate the actual issue which usually relates to the organisational culture.
“After asking how long Mr James had lived in the area an interviewer said, “I’ve just noticed how old you are”. and Mr James was also asked “How’s your health anyway?” On the way home, Mr James claimed that he became increasingly upset at the remarks made during the interview.”
This training is not a quick fix, however it will make employees more aware of legislation and best practice and also, more importantly, help them to elicit, recognise and gradually erode unconscious elements. This requires sophisticated questionnaires to dig deep into individual values and motivations and a phase of allowing individuals to acknowledge their unconscious bias. The first stage of change is being able to see the issue, then comes acknowledgement followed actions to implement change.
This is because our Values drive all our behaviours through our thoughts, feelings and beliefs. Through this process we can be sure of embedding an age-positive message. To gain experience is to be wise; to employ experience is true wisdom.
If you would like to discuss what actions might be taken in your organisation, do please get in touch.