Government points out business benefits of experienced staff

Pensions minister Ian McCartney wants to encourage firms to "put ability before age" when employing staff.

His drive to get businesses to employ people of a wide range of ages is based on economic reasons. He comments: “Too often in the past older workers have been written off when they still have so much to offer.”

Age Concern’s Cheryl Elliott explains that older people “have more experience at systems, practices, administration,” adding that “they know what’s tried and tested and what works”.

Elliot reckons small businesses may find this of more benefit on the bottom line, since younger people tend to try out different roles in an effort to find what suits them rather than stick with what they do best.

She also pointed out that older people have been consumers for longer, have a greater knowledge of markets and so are able to give a more personal customer service. They can also help train younger staff.

In addition the ‘grey’ market itself is growing and firms may want a viewpoint from within to draw on. However, Elliott says, it is a “good balance that is needed,” of both young and old, in a workplace.

The Employers Forum on Age agrees, saying that this policy should lead to “a more efficient workforce” with staff drawn from a wider pool of skills and experience.

The latest campaign against age discrimination comes as UK legislation is changed over the next five years to fit an EU directive on the subject.

Government estimates suggest age discrimination “may cost businesses up to £31 billion a year.” At the moment a third of over 50s are economically inactive.

By 2010 though nearly 40 per cent of the potential work force will be over 45, with 16-to-24-year-olds only making up 17 per cent of that total. This should encourage firms to tap the underused older age group.

The minister was speaking at the launch of a new website that will provide practical help to employers and individuals to end age discrimination in the workplace.

Visit www.agepositive.gov.uk for the latest proposals on legislation and good practice standards on age diversity in the workplace.

With thanks to Lloyds TSB Success4Business.

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