How to fight ageism and get that new job you deserve

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Age discrimination is still very rife in today's work environment (Shutterstock.com)

So you’ve been headhunted for a new position, but upon updating you about the progress of your application, the recruiter tells you that you didn’t make the cut because the client was concerned about your age.  

Great! You’ve got 99 problems in your life, and age discrimination just became your 100th!

What now?

The 'lazy' stereotyping

Ageism in the workplace is an unfortunate reality. Job seekers with impressive CVs and career backgrounds are being turned away or let go simply because of their age. Many employers have negative attitudes towards older workers, especially regarding their ability to adapt to an ever-evolving technological work environment. But this isn’t a story for people in their 50s and 60s only. Young people too, are often the victims of lazy stereotyping, where they will be nudged out because of their age. It’s often a case of a manager who doesn’t give a candidate younger than him or her a new job because of his experience, or a hiring manager who unconsciously discriminates towards job candidates his or her own age.  These stereotypes can often hinder a job seeker’s chances of getting an interview, moving to the second round of interviews or even moving up the ladder to greater leadership roles.

Read: Making a change late in your career

Studies have shown that although age discrimination is illegal, it remains a problem for the working population. By law, an employer cannot deny you a job based on your age. As long as you’re fit for a new position, your potential of landing or losing that gig should be judged by your level of experience. The Basic Conditions of Employment Act in South Africa states that “no person may unfairly discriminate, directly or indirectly, against an employee, in any employment policy or practice, on one or more grounds, including age”.

Can you be fairly discriminated against?

Of course. South African law outlines four grounds on which you can be discriminated against:

  • Discrimination based on affirmative action
  • Discrimination based on the inherent requirement of a particular job
  • Compulsory discrimination by law; and
  • Discrimination based on productivity.
  • A hard nut to crack

    Unfortunately, age discrimination is hard to prove. It’s one thing if a company decides to fire anyone over the age of 50; then there’s a possibility for a case to be made against age discrimination. However, if you’re simply not called in for a second interview, what proof do you have that the hiring manager refused to hire you based on your age?

    Read: Hiring older people is good for business

    Age discrimination does however, act on complaints. If you feel you have been unfairly discriminated against, you can take up your concerns with your employer. If your complaint is not satisfactorily met, you can refer it to the CCMA within six months of the discrimination taking place. If the CCMA is unable to resolve your situation through conciliation, the matter can be referred to arbitration or the Labour Court for adjudication, provided you and your employer are in agreement.

    The bottom line is, whether young or old, having a job offer rejected because of your age should never be factor. If you feel you're being unfairly discriminated against, you have a right to take it up with your employer. If your efforts are not met, Careers24 has thousands of jobs for you to choose from.