A birthday too far

12 Jan

Read 'Will you still need me when I'm 64?' in Safety Management

In January’s issue of Safety Management there is a feature on ‘The Coming of Age’: the growing need for employers, and employees themselves, to recognise the changing demographics of our workforce and put appropriate programmes in place to keep workers safe and healthy for as long as they want to be in the job.

The article discusses the issue of age discrimination, which is seen to be ripe in the media and advertising sectors. If anyone has read or listened to the news today, it will be apparent that those issues are all the more significant if you are a woman over a certain age working at the BBC.

The BBC has been found guilty of ageism: that same organisation we all pay for which promotes fairness and equality regardless of sex, age and race in their corporate literature. Lip service, then, to those well-regarded and qualified presenters and journalists who have been moved to darkened corners of the corporation, or pushed out altogether.

The case of Miriam O’Reilly is about image and discrimination. There were no justifiable reasons under any employment law which led to her axing from the Countryfile programme.

However, this case is one which should be noted across all sectors, not just the media. Dumping an experienced, knowledgable worker simply because of their age is not only unjust, but detrimental to the organisation which would lose that wealth of expertise.

Age is just a number and with the right support in place, older workers can continue their contribution as long as they want (or may need to). Having an image based solely on young whippersnappers will also not hold the same values as organisations which cherish and relish their older and wiser employees.

Mark Twain wrote that “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” Organisations should take heed of these simple words. Healthy older workers who know the rules and have been safe their whole working lives are extremely valuable to businesses. The number of years they have been alive should never be reason to remove someone from a job they can do well and safely.

If you would like to read more on this issue, check out this month’s Safety Management, page 42. And don’t forget to get in touch with your comments and stories.

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