February 2, 2010 Leave a comment
Last week we attended the launch by the EHRC (Equality and Human Rights Commission) of their new research report Working Better: the over 50’s – the new work generation.
At the launch, David Frost, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce dragged out the old chestnut about how keeping older people in work reduces job opportunities for younger individuals. You can see from our earlier blog posts that for numerous reasons we consider this a fatuous argument. First, dispensing with an older person does not mean that someone from the opposite end of the age scale will step into their shoes. Second, the model that sees that the removal of an older person means an upward move for all below them (and the creation of a new job at the lowest level) does not represent the complexity of the situation in reality. Third, it means that everyone is seen as interchangeable in terms of skills, experiences and suitability for the job.
A long list of other points could follow – all of which would demonstrate that the argument is about as meaningful as proposing to remove all women from the workplace to make room for men. It could be done – but there is no moral, rational or business reason to underpin why.
What we MUST do, for reasons of fairness and equality for all, is to remove age from the equation. In practice employers generally realise that they need a range of skills, abilities, experience, stability, mobility, fresh blood and old hands in order to add up to the optimum workforce mix. The cost of these elements will vary – it is for them to decide where the value lies. Linking employment policies to chronological age does nothing to help employers or employees, and has an enormous potential to be hugely damaging when bandied about by policy makers who have little to do with pragmatic decision making.