How ageism is impacting the workforce 

August 12, 2019

Ageism in the workplace is a common issue that often falls under the radar. That's why we recently published the 2019 Hiscox Ageism in the Workplace Study™, which sheds a light on a range of hazards impacting the nation’s workforce, including lawsuits, demotivated employees, and the cost of devaluing older workers. Here’s what we learned. 

Ageism is surprisingly common

Instances of older employees being passed over for important projects or younger co-workers assuming they’re less tech savvy are examples of ageism. The study surveyed 400 workers aged 40 and over and found that 44% of them said they or someone they knew had experienced age discrimination in the workplace. This could have included unfavorable treatment in hiring, job assignment, promotions, terminations, benefits or training. Of the survey respondents, 35% said they feel their age has prevented them from getting a job since they turned 40. And 26% feel there is some risk they could lose their current job due to their age. 

4 reasons why age discrimination is a problem

The prevalence of ageism in the workplace is problematic for several reasons. 

  1. Older, experienced workers have valuable knowledge and insight, and their workplace contributions should not be dismissed. 
  2. Today’s low unemployment rate tends to invalidate the argument that older, higher paid workers can easily be replaced by younger, less expensive talent. 
  3. Age is a protected class, and employees who feel they are being harassed based on their age can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). From 2010 – 2018, employers paid $810.4 million to settle age discrimination charges filed with EEOC, not including litigation. 
  4. With 67% of workers planning to continue to work after age 66, according to the study, the graying of the American workforce is a trend that will continue. 

What can businesses do to stop ageism?

There are steps that businesses can take to prevent age discrimination in their companies, and to deal with it effectively if it occurs. 

Prevent ageism by educating employees about what ageism is and how to recognize it. Point out how some people may have an unconscious bias against older workers. Show employees how to recognize and report ageism when they observe it. 

Detect ageism early by taking any reports – or even rumors – seriously. Conduct periodic anonymous employee surveys to ensure that workers do not feel they are being discriminated against. 

Mitigate the impact of a discrimination claim by responding to it immediately and investigating it thoroughly. Having the appropriate level of liability insurance to cover such claims will help reduce the financial impact on your business. 

To learn more about age discrimination in the workplace and how you can prevent it in your company, download the 2019 Hiscox Ageism in the Workplace Study™