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Equality and diversity in the workplace


It is illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of age in the UK and Ireland, with very few exceptions. The default retirement age (DRA) in the UK was removed in April 2011, so that employers can no longer force people to retire on the grounds of age. This means anyone starting a new career or re-entering the job market could have more working years ahead of them, and so employers may feel they will get a better return on any investment in training older applicants.

You can find out about your legal rights in terms of age discrimination on the Gov.UK website. This outlines what is and isn’t legal during the job application process and while you are employed. There is also information about what action to take if you feel you have been discriminated against because of your age, directly or indirectly. If you're in Ireland, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission website is a useful source of information.

Benefits of older workers

Research published by the Department of Work and Pensions points out what older workers offer to employers:

  • lower levels of staff turnover
  • equal success in training as younger workers
  • a broad range of skills and experience, offering opportunities to mentor new recruits
  • fewer accidents and lower levels of short-term sickness
  • productivity in most jobs at least up to age 70, particularly where they receive the same levels of training as younger workers

Marketing your experience to employers

As a mature student, you are in a good position to illustrate the advantages of being older. You have evidence of successfully balancing and prioritising your work, life and studies, and you demonstrate that you can continue to learn and adjust to new settings. Studying with the OU also emphasises your commitment and motivation, as well as your ability to work independently.

Think of all the skills and abilities you can bring to a role and organisation and explain them positively to a prospective employer. Anticipate obstacles created by some employers and draw attention to how you have re-organised your life and family in order to succeed at OU study.

If you feel your age is a barrier, you can reframe how you think about your age. Your career planning guide includes activities to help you assess your experience and skills and build your confidence.

How we can help

You will find information and advice about how to navigate these challenges, from planning your career, looking for jobs and work experience and applying for roles throughout this website.

Request a careers consultation

If you would like to discuss your options contact the Careers team.

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Last updated 1 year ago