Memorandum from Manpower plc
In the introduction we set out our leading role
in the field of employment services and the contribution we make
to achieving improved employability for our workforce and greater
flexibility for our clients. Effective labour market policies
are essential for the economic and social welfare of the UK, and
are central to our own interests and those of our customers and
In subsequent sections we develop our view that
there is a mismatch between what employers intend and what business
actually does, and that discrimination is still apparent in the
We highlight the benefits of a diverse workforce
with particular emphasis on flexibility and the advantages this
can bring to all age ranges.
We express our view that in our business there
is no justification to use age as a criteria for recruitment and
retention. Also, that as a founder member of the Employers Forum
on Age, we fully endorse the Code of Practice and recognise that
employers need to be more flexible in recruiting from a wider
range of backgrounds.
We place great emphasis on the issue of pensions
and fully support the Employers Forum on Age report on flexible
retirement. In addition we stress the additional barriers to employers
that are the result of the myriad of programmes and groups focusing
on other disadvantaged groups as well as older workers rather
than a more united approach.
The end of the report summarises our view on
the need to continually promote minimum standards to all employers
as legislation could prove burdensome and possibly encourage methods
of avoidance rather than reducing discrimination. Positive emphasis
ought to be placed on the benefits of older workers and tailoring
employment practices and training and development programmes to
the individual where possible.
Manpower welcomes the opportunity to set our
views and enthusiasm at being involved in partnerships and employer
bodies that enhance access to work opportunities for all and aim
to ensure that workers are selected purely on merit.
1.1 Manpower, the UK's leading employment
services company, is part of the international Manpower group
operating in 54 countries and the market leader world-wide. In
the UK, we employ more than 100,000 people yearly to meet client
requirements for temporary, permanent, contract or managed services.
1.2 Our success is based on our longstanding
commitment to the benefits of flexible working for both businesses
and individual employees. This dual relationship with customers
and workforce is reflected in equally strong links with employer
organisations like the CBI and employee bodies in the form of
the trade unions. Similarly our founder membership of the Employers
Forum on Age and participation in their Leadership Group has meant
we are active in developing strategic and practical solutions
to address issues of age.
1.3 Manpower is committed to maintaining
and improving labour market effectiveness. An efficient labour
marketgiving all individuals access to regular paid work
and employers access to a skilled, flexible workforcegenerates
significant economic and social advantages.
1.4 As a successful global corporation,
we recognise our responsibility to provide leadership in issues
relevant to our core expertiseemployment. We believe that
employment agencies, like Manpower, have a key role to play in
breaking down barriers to accessing paid work by selecting workers
purely on merit, as well as recognising the urgency of addressing
issues around growing labour market shortages.
2. In what ways and to what extent are older
workers treated less favourably than younger workers regarding
2.1 We are now at a stage in the general
business environment where few companies would consciously discriminate
on the basis of age, and most recognise the benefits of recruiting
older workers. However statistical evidence demonstrates that
this is not the case in realityit is very difficult for
older workers who have been dismissed, made redundant or had a
long period of absence from the labour market to get back into
the workplace. Older workers alongside younger candidates are
at a disadvantage, suggesting a mismatch between what business
intends and what it actually does.
2.2 There is a double-edged sword regarding
this mismatch. Older people do not apply for positions assuming
that a younger worker would be preferred, and if they do and get
to interview stage they often do not perform well, demonstrating
a lack of confidence in their own suitability and not putting
forward their strengths with sufficient vigour. Discrimination
can also occur through an employer's choice of selection and assessment
methods which may not fairly balance the merit of practical experience
against more theoretically based knowledge, or younger candidates
greater familiarity with psychometric tests.
2.3 Discrimination is also apparent in the
form of denying older workers training, development opportunities
and internal job transfers, as the perception can be that the
investment is not worthwhile or would not be welcomed. In practice
the average 50-55 year old is likely to stay with an organisation
for at least 5 years while a graduate or younger worker is likely
to move on within 2-3 years.
2.4 Finally too many companies still offer
only a "standard" benefit package across all employees
that is often inappropriate for both young, single and older employees.
3. What benefits does promoting age diversity
offer to employers and employees?
3.1 A diverse workforce has a better balance
of skills and priorities that, with good management can be used
to reinforce the best features of every category of employee.
A team with a wide age range in a business with a demand for flexibility
will be more likely to be able to balance, for example, the needs
of a young mother to get away on time with that of an older worker
who wants time off for other interests but is happy to work late
at short notice when necessary.
3.2 Employees, in our experience, enjoy
being part of a team with a wide age range. The young draw on
the advice and experience of their older colleagues who, in turn,
are motivated by the enthusiasm and new ideas generated by their
younger colleagues. With true family groups often geographically
dispersed in modern society, an age diverse workplace can contribute
some of the valuable cross-generational influence that is otherwise
4. In what circumstances, if any, is use of
age as a criteria for the recruitment and retention of employees
4.1 In general terms there can be little
justification for age as a criteria for the recruitment and retention
of employees. Where it exists it is generally based on erroneous
stereotyping and irrational prejudicefor example the assertion
that older workers will suffer greater absence through ill health.
However, in specific sectors there may be circumstances where
the need to match employees with a specific customer group provides
some justification. In our business, which is extremely broadly
based and employs over 100,000 people a year, we have found no
need to do so.
5. How effective is the Government's Code
of Practice in promoting age diversity in the workplace?
5.1 To date Manpower, as an active member
of the Employers Forum on Age, has not been supportive of calls
for legislation. The Government issued a Code of Practice yet
when research was done on awareness only a quarter of employers
were aware of the existence of the Code and 63 per cent admitted
the Code was unlikely to change their working practices. There
is a need for something much more sustained than just a one-off
campaign. A long-term strategy is required between Government,
employer groups (such as Socpo and the CBI) and the unions to
support a business-led campaign.
5.2 Further to that, it is unhelpful in
working to shift employer attitudes to focus on specific issues
like age. Other lobby groups focus on the disabled, ethnic minorities,
parents and those with criminal records. All however are barriers
and we strongly recommend a more united approach to bring home
the business case, in a tightening labour market, for actively
seeking greater diversity in every company's workforce.
5.3 Employers need to recognise that current
HR practices often assume a "standard" employee and
need to be more flexible in order to be competitive in attracting
and developing applicants from a wider range of backgrounds and
with differing capabilities. The Government should actively support
research and promulgation of good practice in this area.
6. In what ways do other Government policies,
for example the New Deal, help or hinder older workers, especially
6.1 Although well worn, the pensions issue
is a crucial point to make. Solutions include phased retirement,
as detailed in the Employers Forum on Age report on "flexible
retirement" which we fully support.
6.2 In the context of New Deal the separate
conditions attached to the "50 plus" programme illustrate
the point made earlier, that the Government, like employers, is
reinforcing distinctions unnecessarily. Like other groups of long-term
unemployed the best solution is to look at each case individually,
because that is what they are, individuals. The success of Employment
Zones, in which Manpower is involved through Working Links, is
an excellent demonstration of the advantages of a more flexible
7. Is there a case for anti-discrimination
legislation and if so what provisions should be made?
7.1 Business will become subject to European
legislation currently going through, not to discriminate on the
grounds of age, race, gender etc. In the interim the UK would
do well to get its house in order, as Ministers have suggested,
so that practice already exceeds the minimum standards likely
to be required by the legislation.
7.2 Earlier UK legislation will serve no
useful purpose, will be resented by businesses already complaining
about the burden of new employment legislation introduced over
recent years and would be so difficult to enforce. The result
could well be to place the emphasis on avoidance rather than taking
positive steps towards compliance.
7.3 Business has created a culture of early
retirement during the 1990s through structural change and early
access to pension benefits (eg 50 year olds in local authorities
have grown to expect to be offered a package well ahead of the
typical retirement ages of 60 and 65). The high incidence of early
redundancies means that older workers do not anticipate re-entry
to the labour market.
7.4 Young people entering business are enticed
at the very outset of their careers by attractive flexible financial
benefits. Given current problems of an ageing population, early
retirement and disengaged older workers, this emphasis is wrong.
There ought to be an emphasis on development and training opportunities,
benefits of lifelong learning and embracing change.
7.5 Too much of company training that is
provided is job specifictraining tailored to that job for
the short-term rather than the progression of the position and
the worker. The whole approach to learning and change is at the
heart of the issue and the Government's development of this agenda,
building on the idea of Individual Learning Accounts and utilising
the new employer-led Learning and Skills Councils, will, in our
view, play a vital part in addressing age discrimination.