Ageism is a controversial subject that most industries are guilty of in some shape or form. Ageism can also be referred to as ‘age discrimination’ and involves a candidate or employee being treated unfairly because of their age. Recently there has been a negative buzz surrounding RTE,who have been ordered by The Workplace Relations Commission to pay 50,000 euro to their former employee, Valerie Cox, who says she was unfairly discriminated against due to her age.
At the hearing in March 2016, Valerie told the WRC adjudication that once her full-time contract was terminated when she turned 65, she was told that she would continue to be on the roster for a non-formal working contract. Valerie went abroad for several months and on return was informed that she was not allowed to return to work as her contract had ended. She argued with RTE that even though her full-time contract had ended in March 2016, she was still entitled to work on her irregular contract. RTE argued back, claiming that retirement age for Valerie was set out in the employee handbook and that the compulsory retirement age recognised the dignity and respect due to all employees and avoided disputes regarding capacity and underperformance.
After checking the employee handbook, the Adjudication Officer said it was clear that the staff handbook does provide for working beyond 65 years. Valerie still says that RTE had been a great employer for the many years she worked there but didn’t want to let the issue slide as she is concerned about the increasing problem of ageism in Ireland and she has a reason to be worried. There are ageist experiences coming from not only Ireland but from all sides of the world.
Age discrimination is prevalent for both young and older workers. Younger employees are sometimes looked upon as not having enough industry experience due to their age and some companies assume older employees will be more of a hindrance than a help. Ageism is illegal and will have serious implications to your company. This can include loss of productivity from other employees who may notice the discrimination happening, creating a hostile working environment.
Discriminating against employees because of their age will result in your company losing out on their expertise if they are asked to leave, while other staff members may feel so strongly about the discrimination that they may also decide to leave your company, resulting in a loss of talented employees. These are only some of the consequences of ageism in the workplace, and so here are some tips to help you ensure your company avoids ageism accusations.
You should show all employees that you value and respect them, encouraging them to reach their full potential in your company. This can be done by offering training to everyone in the workforce, with training opportunities being relevant for all ages and some of the development programs focusing on increased productivity and positive attitudes towards work. Have a separate program for managers who are known for being biased against workers. Make it clear that every worker should be given an opportunity to prove themselves and if you see any stereotyping going on then there will be serious consequences.
When hiring new recruits, ensure the job advertisement sent out has appropriate language and doesn’t imply that workers must be of a certain age, gender and so on. You must ensure that the best person for the job is hired, regardless of their age.
If your company needs to downsize, make sure that you do so fairly. Don’t just focus on younger workers because you think they may stay longer or may have more work productivity. The process should be carefully thought out and fair, and even though this process might take longer, it will be worth it to avoid the serious implications that come from age discrimination.
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