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Diversity in the workplace – why age is more than just a number

Equality and diversity are, unquestionably, extremely important in the workplace.  However, often the experience of an employment lawyers is that companies see these as boxes to be ticked and as a result fail to engage with the topics and to appreciate why they are important and beneficial.  When we speak of diversity in the context of a workplace, we mean celebrating the differences across a diverse workforce and appreciating the value of this to employer and employees alike.  At its most basic level, it clearly makes no sense for an employer to limit its pool of employees to the exclusion of a particular gender, race or religious background. 

Companies benefit massively from having a diverse workforce.  A wide mixture of backgrounds means a wide mixture of skills and experiences and a workforce that is reflective of wider society.  With such wide experiences comes knowledge, confidence and a varied, open-minded approach to problem solving.  It is therefore worth taking a moment to remember the benefits to an employer of casting their net as widely as possible when recruiting and to celebrating diversity by valuing and retaining a diverse workforce.

As we celebrate World Senior Citizen day and acknowledge the contributions of older people to society, unfortunately age is still one of the most common bases for discrimination in the workplace.  It is also an area in which discrimination can be objectively justified quite legally.  However, having a workforce with a diverse age demographic is one of the most straightforward ways in which an employer can benefit from a mix of experience.  Studies highlight that mixed age workforces are more productive, higher performing and have higher levels of employee retention.  There is also evidence that they are happier, too!

As someone who came to the law slightly later in life, I may be biased.  However, I am clear that my previous experiences elsewhere have been of great benefit to me and this tends to be the experience of others who come to their chosen career later in life or following a career change.  Short-sighted employers who exclude large parts of society, be that due to their age or some other characteristic, do so to the detriment of real sustainability of their organisation.  Age, experience and diversity are to be celebrated for the tangible benefits they bring – benefits which can add real value benefiting not just the bottom line, but all aspects that contribute to drive business success.

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