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How to Prevent Age Discrimination and Maximize the Benefits of a Mature Workforce

The best overall policy for employers is to make age-neutral decisions on hiring, firing, work assignments and benefits, and to base these decisions on how well an individual’s abilities and qualifications match criteria set for the job.

This means abandoning assumptions such as mature workers aren’t interested in training and are less engaged the closer they get to retirement.

To prevent age discrimination throughout the enterprise, employers should have an explicit, over-arching policy stating that dis- crimination will not be tolerated. Employers should communicate that policy to their managers, supervisors, human resources personnel and any other staff who are involved in making decisions about employ- ees’ work conditions or benefits, or company policies on these issues.

At least as important as written, explicit policies is the commitment to creating a cli- mate that reflects what mature workers told AARP in a recent survey that they are looking for in a job:

  • positive work environment

  • respect from their co-workers

  • opportunities to use their talents

  • opportunities to use their skills to do

something worthwhile

  • learn something new

  • help others

  • do what they “have always wanted to do”

Employers can develop a better sense of how to respond to such concerns in their work- place by using techniques such as focus groups of employees in different age groups— for example, age 40-49, 50-64 and 65+—to dis- cuss their perceptions of the organization, what they want in a job and how to market jobs to them. Employers might also schedule a regular review of their policies and practices to identify any policies or practices that are age- biased or that reflect negative stereotypes, or that otherwise have an unreasonable adverse impact on older workers.


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