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Getting 2017 research underway!

We are excited to be starting 2017 with some changes – most notably my move to Swansea – but also kicking off a new investigation of age at work.  We will be building on our previous use of visual and discursive methods to investigate gendered ageing and looking at this further in respect to digital media.

We have already submitted a new project proposal and two conference abstracts – its been a busy January so far!  Once we are further along we will be sharing more news about this investigation via our blog and twitter so watch this space!

Congratulations to Dr Katrina Pritchard on her new job @SwanseaUni

We are back after the Christmas and New Year holidays – we hope everyone had a good break too.

And we have some news: Katrina starts a new job today as Associate Professor in the School of Management at Swansea University. Many congratulations to her on this appointment.

So we look forward to continuing our research on the Age at Work project as before but with Katrina at Swansea and me at Birkbeck. We have a journal paper from our work on this project in review and are busy planning our conference paper contributions for this summer.

Wishing our readers a very happy 2017!

Age at work stories at Christmas: from Santa’s helper to retirement

Well, after scouring our alerts, I have found a couple of seasonal age at work stories.

The TUC devotes a section of its website to what it calls ‘Christmas Issues’; naturally these are work-related and happily for us, some of them are also age-related. The section takes the form of a series of ‘questions’ that might be posed about employment rights in the context of the festive season, for example:

“I’m 16 and have got a Saturday job as a Santa’s helper in my local supermarket. They only pay me £4 an hour, but my mate who’s 18 gets £5.55. Is that right?” The answer highlights the continuing age differential in the national minimum wage (NMW) payable to workers: the NMW for 16- and 17-year-olds is indeed only £4.00 per hour; for workers aged 18 to 20 it’s currently £5.55 per hour; and for workers aged 21 to 24 it’s £6.95.

At the other end of the spectrum, for those over 50 who are looking (but so far unsucessfully) for work, this Australian not-for-proft association, W.O.W! – Willing Older Workers, offers emotional and practical support to mature-aged unemployed workers and their families. At Christmas, they also provide food parcels and gifts.  What is very striking about the message that the association puts over on its website, is how those they help have one thing in common, namely that they all want to have paid employment. There seems to be a need to position them in stark contrast to those who might want to retire and/or do voluntary work.

And talking of retirement, I found this list on e-bay for presents for newly retired Dads. The gift ideas are described as supporting ‘leisurely, time-consuming activities‘. I couldn’t find an equivalent list for Mums… so there may still be some gendering around the notion of retirement. Perhaps women are seen by some as already fully occupied with household and caring duties so not needing any more ‘time-consuming activities‘??

And that’s it for 2016. We’ll be back in the week beginning 16th January 2017. In the meantime, Merry Christmas and best wishes for a very happy new year.

Costs and fees: Barriers to #Age #discrimination claims in general and against Google in particular

This is not our annual festive blog post! I’m still looking for suitable material for that.

So in the meantime, I noticed that our friends at Lewis Silkin had tweeted a link earlier today to a graph showing the number of age discrimination claims brought in England & Wales each year since the legislation came into force 10 years ago.

If you follow the link to their article, this explains that the spike is almost certainly due to a large multiple claimant issue in September 2015 as the average number of claims each month on either side of that is relatively stable. The figures still show a downward trend since fees became payable to bring a claim. This really highlights the difficulty in tackling discriminatory action and ageist views – it all depends on individuals being able to bring claims against organizations and that is undoubtedly harder if you have to pay a fee.

In other age discrimination news, HR Dive (who cover news in the HR industry) reports that “ageism is the most ‘acceptable’ form of workplace discrimination” but is also hard to prove. They are covering the topic in the US (though the hard-to-prove issue is just as relevant in the UK). In the US, legislation only protects those over 40 from age discrimination, but the article claims that ageism is now affecting those in their 30s and 40s, quoting a LinkedIn Pulse survey. Apparently organizations can find 20-year-olds to do their jobs for less money.

In the meantime, and relating to the tech industry which is often cited as ageist, Computerworld report that the trial date has been set for the Google age-discrimination trial date. However, it’s not going to happen until November 2018. It’s been turned into a sort of class action where others can join the lawsuit. To be eligible, they need to have had an in-person interview with Google for certain types of software engineering jobs, to have been over the age of 40 at the time, and were rejected by Google from August 2014 through the present. Apparently, there may be thousands who are eligible. Once again, it’s interesting to note how money may act as a barrier to justice. Not upfront fees this time, it’s said that some people may be deterred from joining the legal action because of the risk of being liable for some of the costs, in the event that Google win.

Ask the headhunter…and get a very odd reply

‘Ask the Headhunter’ is a regular feature on @PBS written by Nick Corcodilos who answers questions such as “I was fired for being late what should I tell my new boss” and I’m stuck in a horrible job how can I quit”.

Bearing mind the focus here is the US, this latest question about age discrimination refers only to older workers (over 40), and not age discrimination in general as would be the case in the UK:

With a strong focus on the bottom line, Nick’s advice is that: “most managers will see past “the gray” if you show them the green — money, profit, success”.

Much of the article focuses on having the ‘right’ state of mind for the interview, and not giving off the wrong signals.  Towards the end of the article, Nick states “If you’re preoccupied with your age in the interview, you’re giving off the wrong signal. Defeat age anxiety, and you’ll survive most age discrimination.”

While there is some sense in the first part of the sentence, the second seems wholly unrealistic.  It passes the responsibility entirely to the individual (here an older job seeker) and suggests that it is that individual’s responsibility to ‘survive’ the discrimination.  I wonder whether such a statement would be applied to other forms of discrimination in the workplace?


#Ageism in the #advertising industry: time to challenge age myths about creativity?

Thanks to my colleague Jamie Priestley for sending me a link to an article on Campaign magazine’s website about ageism in the advertising industry. We’ve blogged on the topic of the (still rather occasional and thus high profile) use of older models so it was interesting to read this thoughtful piece by Nicola Kemp entitled ‘Why ageism is adland’s next frontier’.

The focus is on the issue of age in the context of all those who work in this industry. The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) is the trade body and professional institute for agencies in the UK’s media and marketing communications industry.Apparently, the average age of employees at all IPA member agencies is 33.7. This figure has not changed since 2009 – despite some major changes such as the abolition of mandatroy retirement and the increase in state pension age. As the article asks: “Where does everyone go?”

Campaign conducted an online readers survey about perceptions of ageism in marketing and advertising. 79% of respondents agree that the industry comes across as ageist. 32% said that they had experienced ageism against them in the workplace. 42% said they had seen ageism against others at work. 25% said they had been told they were ‘too old‘ when turned down for a job. And 40% said they had been told they ‘wouldn’t fit in‘ when turned down for a job.

The article discusses these percetions with those working in  the industry and in employment law.

Shilpen Savani, an employment law specialist at Gunnercooke, is quoted as saying: “Innovation is valued above experience and that has created an imbalance and a focus on change. There is a misconception that age and innovation are seen as mutually exclusive.”  There are reports about the difficulty of finding a new job in the industry once you are over 40 – the operation of an ‘invisible sell-by date‘ as one interviewee puts it.
It goes on to discuss whether these attitudes and practices will change as it becomes clearer that more people across all aspects of society will have to work for longer. This involves considering how ‘retirement’ in the 21st century is becoming a very different notion to that experienced by previous cohorts of workers. At this stage it’s difficult to say what this might mean for the creative industries where the received wisdom is often that creativity peaks at a relatively young age.  But it’s difficult to assess such a claim if no one works in a creative job in advertising past their 40s! Time to start pushing against the ageism and to bust some more age stereotypes.

Raising the UK’s state pension age (again)

Earlier this week the Guardian reported the prospect of a further rise in state pension age in the UK.  The former pensions minister, Steve Webb, claims that documents produced by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) suggest that a faster (“more aggressive”) timetable for raising state pension age (SPA) was being prepared. This could affect those currently aged under 55 and would bring a pension age of 70 into the official timetable for the first time for people currently aged between 22 and 30.

An official review is taking place into the future of the state pension. Last month the DWP asked the Government Actuary’s Department (GAD) to look at projected life expectancy in future years.

The Guardian asked its readers for their comments on this possibility. Here are a selection of those views:

  • ‘It’s basically a huge tax increase nobody really cares about [because] it [only] effects them in future’
  • ‘Increased life expectancy does not mean all people getting on for 70 are fit enough for a full-time job’
  • ‘We must fight cuts and lobby for a higher state pension’ but ‘we should also do everything we can to free ourselves from reliance on the state pension by personal saving and investing’.
  • ‘Something has to give, and working a few more years is preferable to a cull.’
  • ‘Younger generations are going to be smashed, meanwhile today’s pensioners have retired early and get triple-locked pensions, yet STILL think they are somehow victims.’
  • ‘But I worry about being divided against the older part of the population, surely division is exactly what the Tories want.’
  • ‘It is truly a sad state of affairs to see how the rich, bankers and corporations have succeeded in deflecting the blame from their own wrongdoings and got the “proles” to fight amongst themselves.’

Broadly these illustrate themes that we have been covering on this blog since we started.  We see here references to the problem of differences in healthy life expectancy (often linked to socio-economic status and work history), the dangers of pitting one generation against another (and deflecting focus from those with more direct political responsibility for social inequalities), and the discourse of personal responsibility. This debate will run and run, and it looks likely that the ‘triple lock’ aspect of the state pension will also be examined as part of the review.

Is a career change in your fifties news?

Several times this week I’ve caught discussion on Radio 4 of the FT economist’s Lucy Kellaway’s announcement of a career change to teaching.  Although until she becomes a full-time teacher she is running a new organisation to help others make the transition: Now Teach.

Rebecca and I have often alluded on here to our own previous careers – one a lawyer and the other as a management consultant – before making a change to academia via several years of part and full time study.  As academics at two institutions that specialise in part-time provision and enabling career development at whatever age, we both also see very many men and women of various ages making these sorts of difficult transitions.   While therefore I applaud Lucy’s approach and openness about wanting a career change I do wonder if it’s quite this newsworthy.

I am also concerned at the idea that a career switch is straightforward and unproblematic, or possible for everyone.  Indeed the Guardian article suggests that this transition is aimed at  those in a ‘“demographic sweet spot” of those whose children have left home and who avoided the worst of the housing market’.  Coupled with the clear aim to recruit business leaders this might limit the range of those who would consider this transition but whom might make very good teachers indeed.

However as the Guardian article highlights Lucy’s positive attitude is a lesson for all:

““What could be more rejuvenating than starting all over again at my age? The thought that I will be training with people who are my children’s age is absolutely brilliant, it really is.””



The care crisis hits the headlines

At first glance ‘the care crisis’ (#carecrisis) might not appear to be an obvious topic for our Age at Work blog. After all, isn’t this about ageing beyond the working years?

Well yes, but care is work.  And care provision, whether provided in a commercial environment or by family, is work.  And if care is provided by family then it can often impact the family members working lives, whether they are formally designated ‘carers’ or not.

In writing this blog I am aware that I am coming very close to a line that Rebecca and I agreed to avoid straying into territory that touches on our own family concerns.  However, a key issue here is that care challenges some of the arbitrary boundaries that we tend to assume are more concrete: between home and work, between parent and child and between health and illness. Care is a complex issue that disrupts, challenges and problematises these boundaries.

In debates about the care crisis, the issue of financial responsibility is the headline debate.  Here there is a further problematic boundary: between health and social care. Via the BBC, Ros Altmann is calling for a “new ISA to help people save for care could be introduced and firms could offer “eldercare vouchers” along the lines of the childcare voucher scheme, which attracts tax relief”.

Elsewhere the state of care is under scrutiny as councils shortage of care provision is highlighted and the quality of provision is further investigated, as in this recent Panorama programme.

However, this is not just about older people.

Care and the #carecrisis is a concern that operates at many different levels.  From those of us that find ourselves fighting and struggling to organise the care that a family member needs, to the broader issues of what care system should be in place and how it should be funded.  Many will be watching to the Autumn Statement on Wednesday for a response.  Many others will continue battling on a personal level regardless.


Prizes and age limits (again): the case of the #TurnerPrize

We have blogged before about prizes and age limits, including Katrina’s blog post about the Turner Prize last year when she called for an explanation for having an upper age limit of 50 years and for a change in policy. We received some supportive comments at the time.

It’s back in the news again, with this piece by Jonathan Jones in The Guardian recently arguing for the abolition of the age limit. He explains the rationale for the age limit (we didn’t get a reply from the Tate to our queries last year). Apparently the rule was introduced in 1991 to clarify that the prize is not a lifetime achievement award and to prevent it being won every year by Lucian Freud, or other established British artists. Interesting that it didn’t have an age limit to start with. But I’d say there are other ways of achieving their aim other than by using an age limit.

The position contrasts with the new Hepworth Prize for Sculpture which has just been awarded to Helen Marten.  As reported by the BBC, she has said that she will share the £30,000 award with her fellow nominees, in part in response to what she describes as the “the hierarchical position of art prizes today [which] is to a certain extent flawed”.

In contrast to many prizes, including the Turner Prize, the Hepworth prize has no nominating criteria: no age limit, no career requirements, and no rules on what counts as sculpture. Helen Marten (who is 31) is up for the Turner Prize as well and has said she will share that too if successful.

It remains to be seen if the Hepworth’s move to more relaxed nominating criteria lead to the abolition of the Turner Prize age limit.

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