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UK SMEs: Recruitment process ‘discriminates against older workers’

Despite SMEs overwhelmingly understanding the benefits of employing older workers - with their experience being particularly valued along with their ability to mentor more junior members of the workforce - most feel that the recruitment process discriminates against older workers.

  • 66% of SMEs say recruitment process favours the young
  • 88% of firms agree that there are real benefits to employing older workers
  • 58% confirm that one third or more of their workforce is over the age of 50

This is causing half of those polled to admit to already struggling to recruit the talent they need or to foresee problems in the future. The larger the business, the bigger the concern becomes.

The figures were obtained from the latest independent research of 933 UK SMEs commissioned by Close Brothers Asset Finance and conducted by Lightspeed, a specialist research firm, in September 2019.

“Our research has found that in recruitment there is the sense that it’s not currently a level playing field between the generations, with 66% of SME business owners of the view that the process favours younger workers",said Neil Davies, CEO, Close Brothers Asset Finance. “This sentiment is particularly strong in the engineering sector, which trends well above the national average at 76%, and suffers from a significant skills shortage.

“It’s widely acknowledged that older workers bring with them valuable experience accumulated over the course of many decades, which comes with many attendant benefits for organisations. Positively, the findings also reveal that many businesses recognise that employing people with more experience is an opportunity to mentor and train those new to employment while also providing a level of stability and level headedness to the workplace.”

Future concerns

While 52% of firms are comfortable with being able to recruit the talent they need in the coming five years, 35% are predicting problems in the future and a further 13% say they’re already struggling.