Demographic changes have facilitated longer, healthier lives, and legislative changes have encouraged extended working lives through the increasing of state pension age, equalisation of state pensions, and the removal of the default retirement age. Recent age discrimination legislation has begun to combat age discrimination within the employment context of the UK. Legal precedent has also been established during the course of this research through case law, as a result of high profile age discrimination cases reaching the Supreme Court.
Through several interview studies, this thesis explores the experiences, views and attitudes of employees, employers, job seekers and retired individuals. Utilising focus groups, this thesis also presents data from a range of charity representatives, human resources professionals, line managers, employment advisors, health and safety practitioners, and trade union representatives in order to explore the influence of changes in later life working policy and practice.
The research of this thesis also includes a consultation exercise to engage the potential users of the research and develops a policy and practice framework providing recommendations which could lead to better outcomes and improved opportunities for older workers. Finally, a series of video case studies presents the research findings in an accessible visual format. This varied use of communication methods was specifically selected in order to increase the impact of the research and potential user audience.
Research findings highlighted that managing age diversity was perceived as essential for employee motivation and organisational competitiveness. In particular, interviewees from generationally diverse workforces also reported a more positive attitude to age. Evidence from this thesis presents direct examples of age discrimination limiting the employment opportunities of older workers. Potential victims of age discrimination often struggle to gather evidence to support their perception that they may have been mistreated due to their age. Especially for job seekers, the perception of age discrimination presents a significant barrier to confidence, motivation, and opportunities during the employment search. These concerns are also exacerbated by the most widely reported barrier to securing employment for older jobseekers which was insufficient feedback. While a small minority of employers discussed discriminatory practices, the majority were positive towards age diversity and embraced the benefits of older workers. Responsibility for retirement transitions and performance management as older employees reach the end of their careers were issues employers reported struggling with in light of the removal of the default retirement age. The findings of this thesis highlight the importance of challenging age stereotypes and embracing the opportunities that a multi-generational workforce offers in order to increase equality of opportunity and promote age positive organisational culture. All parts of society have a shared responsibility to change attitudes towards older workers, and offer workers of all ages the equality they deserve.