Combatting Age Discrimination in the Workplace

Ageism in the workplace remains a common challenge for older workers looking for employment both later in their career and post-retirement. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Ipsos-Reid, three-quarters (74 percent) of Canadians feel that when it comes to hiring, workplaces discriminate against older workers who are looking for jobs.

Often the skills, experience and expertise of older workers can be overlooked or too easily dismissed to the detriment of employers, employees and the broader economy. With an ageing population, however, it will become increasingly important for Canadian businesses to embrace workers of all ages and incorporate age-friendly principles.

“An age-friendly environment is one that enables a person to do what they value,” said Jane Barratt, Secretary General of the International Federation on Ageing. “So how do businesses and organizations create that? It’s through physical infrastructure in our workplaces that accommodates everyone, it’s through communication methods that are easy for us all to use and it’s ultimately through treating people with respect and dignity.”

Several of the world’s leading organizations have developed Guiding Principles for Age-Friendly Businesses in an effort to help companies create workplaces that embrace and support workers of all ages.

This World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Ageing initiative provides seven principles for healthy workplaces, including creating age-neutral workplaces—the first of the seven. The principles set out to recognize the potential contributions of employees of all ages and the value of a multi-generational workforce by encouraging an inclusive environment and discouraging age-related discrimination or hostility.

Another of the principles is inclusive culture, which encourages development of a culture that embraces the contributions of workers across all ages and that values a supportive multi-generational work environment.

“We know there is a learning relationship across generations that is particularly important in a workplace,” said Barratt. “Within a broader culture, rituals and practices are passed down from generation to generation, and this is true within a workplace as well. The mentorship that older workers can provide to their younger colleagues is invaluable in helping new generations grow and navigate the challenges they will encounter throughout their career.”

Workers of all ages have a right to access employment free of discrimination. Greater acknowledgement of the benefits older workers bring to our workplaces and the principles of age-friendly businesses, will go a long way in bringing about more equitable workplaces for all Canadians.

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