Researchers are finding that the recent wave of unemployment particularly affects older workers. Many employees who worked in the same types of jobs and positions for decades have been laid off and are now forced to look at changing their careers to reenter the workforce. Commentary and Checklist
Although the unemployment rate for workers over 55 is much lower than the rate for younger workers, studies done by the AARP Public Policy Institute and the Urban Institute show that older workers face more obstacles when looking for a new job. Workers who are age 55 and older are unemployed an average of 56.1 weeks before finding a new position, compared to 35 weeks for younger workers.
Employers are nearly one-third less likely to hire an older worker than a younger applicant. When employers hire older workers, it is often in a new career field that pays less - nearly 40 percent less than the previous jobs held by workers ages 50 to 61 - and the new career field comes with challenges such as the need for training, a younger boss, and a down-sized lifestyle.
The studies also found that the earning potential of workers ages 62 and older decreases by about 46 percent when starting over in a new career.
Experts suggest that older workers stay current with their computer skills and take advantage of on-the-job training. Also, internships are no longer just for college graduates. Many older job seekers find that internships are an effective way for them to break into a new field and can lead to permanent employment. Corilyn Shropshire for the Chicago Tribune, "Older workers face challenges after layoffs," www.chicagocareertech.com (Feb. 16, 2012).
As of November 2011, figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that just over 20 percent of the workforce is age 55 or older. With the unemployment numbers still over eight percent, you can be sure that many of those looking for a job are in this older age group.
The protections found in the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) apply to both employees and job applicants. Under the ADEA, it is unlawful to discriminate against a person because of his or her age (40 and over) with respect to any term, condition, or privilege of employment, including training, firing, promotion, layoffs, compensation, benefits, job assignments and hiring.
Employers must remember that as long as job applicants, no matter their ages, are able to perform the essential functions of a job in a safe, productive and reasonable manner, they should be considered for the job.
One value provided by many older workers is their willingness to work part-time or on a temporary basis. Older workers provide an excellent pool of experienced talent for part-time or project-based work. Full-time older workers also may have more flexibility with work schedules.
Other key benefits of hiring older workers are that they often have more experience, a strong work ethic, and a mature understanding of the workplace. In a new career, they may bring an attitude of enthusiasm, appreciation and loyalty to the workplace that bolsters overall employee morale and productivity.
To entice older applicants, employers should emphasize their anti-discrimination policies, how their managers are trained to provide equal employment opportunities, and detail how training is allocated to all employees regardless of age. Employers, if possible, should promote their records for employing older workers and the success older workers have achieved once employed.
Consider these tips to make sure that your hiring process does not overlook the talents of older workers:
- Advertise jobs where older employees are likely to view them - with senior associations and senior-related career sites. Make certain that your advertisements are age-neutral, however.
- Advertise your organization as an equal opportunity employer.
- Create job postings that promise training, if available.
- Offer flexible hours.
- Permit part-time employment and job sharing.
- Create a recognition program and advertise it to older employees so they know they will receive acknowledgement for a job well done.
This informational piece was published on April 2, 2012.
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