Charity’s research also finds 42 per cent of HR directors prioritise output over employee wellbeing

One in five (21 per cent) employees are concerned they are not taken seriously at work because of their age, new research has revealed.

The survey by charity the Chartered Accountants’ Benevolent Association (CABA), of 2,000 working adults and 172 HR directors, revealed that ageism was a concern, particularly for younger employees. Of those aged between 16 and 24, almost half (43 per cent) said they were not taken seriously because of their age, compared with just 21 per cent of 55 to 64-year-olds.

CABA also found that women were more worried about how they were perceived because of their age than men, with a quarter (25 per cent) of women saying it concerned them, compared with 17 per cent of men. Meanwhile, 16 per cent of the women surveyed also said they felt they had been held back at work because of their gender.

“It’s clear that despite legislation and initiatives to make the workplace fair and equal, some employees still feel discriminated against – because of their age, gender or how they look,” said Kelly Feehan, service director for CABA.

Meanwhile, ageism was found to be the most common form of discrimination in workplaces, cited by 39 per cent of employees surveyed for a separate poll by Lee Hecht Harrison Penna, published earlier this year. 

However, in CABA’s research 42 per cent of the HR directors surveyed said they prioritised output over employee wellbeing. Meanwhile, a third (35 per cent) of the employees questioned said they were too scared to call in sick, 17 per cent avoided being the first to leave the office and 14 per cent said they often skipped their lunch break to power through their workloads.

“For employees to do their best and flourish, they need to be themselves, and feel confident to express their views, sexuality or beliefs, in an open and honest environment,” said Feehan. “Employers need to take heed and see that making employees feel comfortable will be healthier than concentrating on their output, as this way we can address the productivity gap and start resolving these underlying fears employees hold.”

Denise Keating, chief executive at the Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion, told People Management that the data highlighted the extent to which employees worry about how they are perceived. “All HR practitioners should look again at their workplaces and challenge poor line managers because this sort of culture is clearly not as uncommon as one would hope,” she said. 

Yesterday, the BBC reported that one Silicon Valley boss had dyed her blonde hair brown and stopped wearing heels and contact lenses in a bid to be taken more seriously. Eileen Carey, CEO of Glassbreakers – a company that provides software aimed at attracting and empowering a diverse workforce – was told by investors they would feel more comfortable working with a brunette, rather than a blonde. "I was told for this raise [of funds] that it would be to my benefit to dye my hair brown because there was a stronger pattern recognition of brunette women CEOs," she said.


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