Age discrimination in the workplace an ongoing problem: Study

Employers need more complete strategy for retaining mature workers

Age discrimination is still a significant problem in the Canadian workplace, and many employers have very limited strategies for retaining mature workers, according to a recent study.

The study, conducted by Ceridian and CARP, revealed considerable gaps in employer retention strategies for mature workers.

Second Wind: The Evolving Nature of Retirement, an online poll of 5,230 Canadians, found more than one-half (57 per cent) of mature workers want to stay in the workforce — but on their own terms.

But some are deterred by significant gaps in many employers’ retention strategies for mature workers — a systemic problem CARP attributes to age discrimination.

“Ageism discrimination against mature workers exists within the Canadian corporate culture, despite how far we like to think we have come,” said Ross Mayot, vice-president and general manager of CARP, a Toronto-based association that advocates for people age 50 plus. “Mature professionals are often overlooked based on assumptions that they are too old to keep up with the times and may cost a company more in terms of benefits.”

But those assumptions aren’t true, he said.

“Employers need to realize that the age of the worker does not define capability, negate the willingness to learn or adapt, or automatically mean increased benefits costs,” he said.

To retain and recruit mature workers and the wealth of experience they provide, employers need to adjust their strategies to address mature workers’ concerns, the study said.

One major concern for many mature workers is health and wellness. Extending health benefits beyond the retirement age is one strategy that almost one-half (48 per cent) of the study’s participants wanted. Employee assistance programs (EAPs) were another strategy the study cited.

“Employee assistance programs can help alleviate mature worker concerns over succumbing to deteriorating health problems and outliving retirement savings,” said Estelle Morrison, vice-president of clinical and wellness services at Markham, Ont.-based Ceridian.

Flexible work conditions were another concern for many of the study’s respondents. The traditional nine-to-five work week doesn’t appeal to many mature workers, a number of whom are working beyond the retirement age, the study found.

To retain them, employers might consider non-traditional work arrangements like flexible hours and job-sharing (46 per cent of respondents wanted this); phased-in retirement options (41 per cent); and workplace mentorship programs (29.9 per cent) and inter-generational training (24.8 per cent).

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