Ageism may not receive the same amount of attention as other forms of discrimination, but that doesn’t mean it is not practiced in the modern workplace anymore. In fact, statistical data indicates otherwise. Age discrimination claims and complaints have been steadily increasing since 1997. An Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) report shows that 21.8 or 18,375 of all claims and complaints made in 2017 alone were for age discrimination. And an overwhelming 92 percent of workers who have seen age discrimination happen at work or have experienced it first-hand attest that it is all too common.
In a recent statement, The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) gives an apt reminder—“It is clearly stated in the law that age discrimination in workplaces is prohibited,” said Nicanor Bon, program policy division chief of the Bureau of Working Conditions. “Even labor organizations are not allowed to deny membership of any worker due to age limitations.”
Age discrimination is something that should never be tolerated by both employers or employees. It creates a hostile working environment for everyone, and it’s only right for HR professionals to be concerned.
What constitutes age discrimination
Republic Act No.10911 or the Anti-Age Discrimination in Employment Act has only passed in to law in 2016, and is effectively enforceable for a little over a year. But the law provides clear provisions for employers need to abide by. To promote equal opportunities in employment for all, Section 4 of RA 10911 dictates that it is unlawful to:
- Print or publish, or cause to be printed or published, in any form of media, including the internet, any notice of advertisement relating to employment suggesting preferences, limitations, specifications and discrimination based on age;
- Require the declaration of age or birth date during the application process;
- Decline any employment application because of the individual’s age;
- Discriminate against an individual in terms of comparison, terms and conditions or privileges of employment on account of such individual’s age;
- Deny any employee’s or worker’s promotion or opportunity for training because of age;
- Forcibly lay off an employee or worker because of old age; or
- Impose early retirement on the basis of such employee’s or worker’s age.
The Anti-Age Discrimination Law is put in place to protect individuals from personnel decisions based purely on bias and prejudice. However, it is usually only up to the workers to defend themselves and put forward evidence of ageism. HR needs to work more proactively to eradicate this toxic mentality from the organization.
Firmly enforce an age discrimination policy
It’s not enough to have a policy on age discrimination, Chron says; you also need to reinforce it. Aside from issuing handbooks that contain information and procedures, actions that will be taken should employees break rules must be detailed as well. There must be a progressive discipline program in place starting from giving verbal warnings to first time violators to requiring frequent offenders to undergo sensitivity training. If necessary, a final written warning should be issued to employees who repeatedly go against company policy before termination.
Work hard to achieve workforce diversity
Many don’t realize it, but hiring managers have a tendency to hire people who are similar to themselves. A report from Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) on the Employment Situation in January 2018 illustrates just how much we need to diversify. 22.6 percent of the total employed were in the age group 25-34 years, as opposed to only 18.4 in the 45-54 group and a measly 10.9 in the 55-64 group. Hire candidates for the right reasons, not because of assumptions that they will not fit in with younger employees. Focus on skills crucial to the role being filled.
Rethink your job application process
The law prohibits employers to imply preferences based on age, especially on your job descriptions. An article from Insperity suggest avoiding stereotypical identifiers or labels such as “young,” “fresh-minded,” “energetic,” or “perfect for stay-at-home moms.” Refrain from asking candidates unnecessary details about themselves like their birthdate, the age of their children or grandchildren, or anything else that may reveal clues about an individual’s age. It also helps to have structured interview guides to use for all applicants and train interviewers to only ask appropriate questions.
Always keep one ear to the ground
According to Experteer, certain prejudices that have been so ingrained in the company culture will be harder to deal with down the line. To avoid this, it pays to always be aware of the current social climate within the company. This is how you can recognize the signs of age discrimination like negative comments about a co-worker’s age, promotions going to younger employees instead of older, more qualified employees, and managers or direct supervisors only socializing with younger workers. The sooner you correct blatantly ageist behavior, the better it is for everyone.
The responsibility of keeping the workplace free of any discrimination falls heavily on HR practitioners. But if you instill good values on every employee, such biases can easily be stamped out.