Career clinic

Q. I am in my fifties with 30 years’ social work experience, generally as a basic grade worker in council area offices. I have applied unsuccessfully many times for more interesting posts. I wonder whether my age or length of experience goes against me as managers may expect older workers to be more opinionated and less compliant?

A. It may well be that your age is affecting your ability to obtain a job. Some say ageism is the last form of legal discrimination in the UK. However, employers are beginning to recognise the advantages of hiring staff of all ages, especially as there are skills shortages in many occupations, including social work. This brings benefits through fostering a skilled and experienced workforce. In turn, this brings about higher productivity, lower recruitment costs and higher workforce retention rates.

At the moment there is no age discrimination legislation in this country, only a voluntary code of practice. Any that does materialise is likely to prevent employers discriminating on the grounds of age. The EU directive concerning this recognises that differences of treatment on the grounds of age can sometimes be justified. For example, there may need to be special provisions, dependant on age, in order to protect an employee’s health and safety.

In any applications you make, it is important to emphasise your skills and experience in your sphere and mention the wealth of talent and expertise that your years of experience have given. Do not focus on your idea that older workers are viewed by employers as more opinionated and less compliant.

Makbool Javaid is a solicitor at DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary

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