17 July 2018
A cross-party group of MPs has published a scathing report criticising the government’s failure to properly enforce age discrimination law.
More than a million people over 50 are not able to access employment despite wanting to work, according to the findings of a recent inquiry by the Women and Equalities Committee.
Women in this age group are hardest hit, it was found, as the lack of flexibility offered by employers makes it difficult for them to fit work around pre-existing care duties.
Further, the Committee warned that the government “needs to be clearer” that prejudice, unconscious bias and casual ageism are unlawful, as per the Equality Act 2010, especially among recruitment agencies, where the issue was found to be particularly pronounced.
Chairwoman Maria Miller said the lack of enforcement of the law by both the government and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is “alarming and totally unacceptable”.
“People in later life are often playing many different roles in society, but those who wish to work should not face the current barriers of discrimination, bias and outdated employment practices,” the report states.
“Too little is being done to enforce the law,” it adds. “Neither the government or the Equality and Human Rights Commission, with its considerable enforcement powers, are intervening in the recruitment sector where so much of the evidence demonstrates unlawful ways of working.”
The Committee recommended the introduction of age-discrimination auditing, similar to the new gender pay gap reporting requirement; a mandatory duty to provide flexible working arrangements; a statutory entitlement to five days’ paid carer’s leave and a longer period of unpaid leave; a responsibility for recruitment agencies to collect data on where older workers are excluded from employment and to create a plan to protest against discrimination; and an urgent investigation by the EHRC into why older people are failing to find sustainable employment and ensure it is not due to discrimination.
“Age discrimination in the workplace is a serious problem, as many older people have discovered,” Maria Miller said.
“Yet despite it being unlawful for more than a decade, the scale and lack of enforcement uncovered by our inquiry is both alarming and totally unacceptable.
“The Government and the EHRC have failed to get to grips with this.”
She added: “As a country we face serious challenges recruiting and retaining an experienced and skilled workforce.
“Until we tackle discrimination against the growing number of over 50s, they will continue to be consigned to the ‘too old’ pile instead of being part of the solution … employers continue to organise workplaces around an outdated, inflexible model that this inquiry and our past inquiries into fathers in the workplace and the gender pay gap show no longer works.”