Students Staff

30 September 2009

Workplace age discrimination still widespread

Colchester Campus

In recognition of UK Older Peoples day tomorrow, a University of Essex researcher has spoken out about the ongoing problem of age discrimination in the workplace. 

Dr Kathleen Riach claims that despite legislation passed in 2006 which banned workplace age discrimination, the UK remains a long way from eradicating age inequality at work because of a lack of ‘age awareness’ in everyday life.

Dr Riach, a lecturer at Essex Business School, said: ‘The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations that were passed in 2006 have made employers aware of their legal obligation to avoid age discrimination, but there is still a long way to go in changing deeply ingrained attitudes to work in later life.

‘There are still a number of assumptions made about behaviours and motivations for work that are incorrectly tied to age. For example, whilst those over 50 are no longer seen as on the scrapheap, there may be the assumption that they are post-career and have no interest in promotion. Elsewhere, companies may promote themselves as celebrating older workers, but target recruitment is for entry-level, hourly paid jobs with little progression.

‘In some sectors, such as IT, individuals can be seen as “over the hill” as young as 35. In some cases it may be that the introduction of legislation has not changed attitudes and biases against older workers, but simply driven them underground.

‘Moreover, in these times of recession, there is a heightened interest in the unemployment of those aged between 18 and 24 who are seen as a labour market priority. But there remain huge numbers of those aged between 50 and state pension age currently out of work, especially those classed as long-term unemployed.’

‘One survey recently conducted by the Age and Employment Network shows that 72 per cent of respondents felt they were seen as too old by employers, suggesting that age biases are still a problem.’

Dr Riach, whose research interests focus on forms of age inequality within organisational life, concluded: ‘We need to confront wider social perceptions held about age in society, and how certain groups are portrayed in the media or everyday experiences.


Notes to editors
For further information, or to arrange an interview with Dr Riach, please contact the University of Essex Communications Office, telephone: 01206 873529, e-mail:

For further information about UK Older Peoples Day, see:

...more news releases