Thursday, 30 September 2010

Careers advice: Helping you negotiate the jobs market roller coaster


I wonder if you think my age (57) could be a stumbling block when I apply for positions. I am more than capable of taking on new challenges but rarely get the opportunity. Diane, Neath

How do you get employers to view your CV when you are 50+? In the initial recruitment selection, employers reject anyone in this category.

Freddie, via email

These are just two of several letters I received from readers worried that their age was getting in the way of them finding a job. Their concerns represent a nasty side effect of the recession – despite all the focus on young people, a disproportionate number of older workers are unemployed and many are struggling to get back into work following redundancy, according to The Age and Employment Network.

However, there are several things Diane and Freddie should be doing to give themselves the best chance of finding a job, regardless of their age.

In Diane’s case, your CV is three pages long and extremely detailed. CVs should usually be a maximum of two pages. In the “key skills” section, you list 24 things you can do, but without providing examples of what they are or why they matter. Any employer looking at this long list would be overwhelmed by what it is you’re trying to tell them. For example, you list “merchandising” and “display building” but without explaining what you achieved in this area. You also list far more mundane skills like “text and photo on a mobile phone”. Who can’t do this these days?

I would pick out five key skills that really do set you apart from the rest (play on your experience if you can) and provide examples of your successes.

Next you must tailor your CV. It looks like you’ve got a wealth of experience in the retail industry, but rather than simply list job titles and dates, I would expand on a couple of roles which you feel would be most relevant to the job you’re applying for. Employers can afford to be choosy – your application must tell them why you’re the most suitable candidate.

If all else fails, Freddie, remove your age from your CV. It’s illegal for any employer to ask for it.

The renewables sector is set to create tens of thousands of jobs over the next few years. But very few recruitment agencies have job listings for the growing micro renewables industry, with sections covering solar thermal, solar photovoltaic, biomass, heat pumps and wind.

Eric, Dorset

The micro renewables industry – which designs devices that generate energy on a small scale – is still in its infancy, according to the big recruitment firms.

However, if you want work in this area you should be proactive and register with the big agencies like Reed, Hays or Kellysearch. As Mark Stuart, a business manager at Reed, says: “The micro renewables sector is not on a massive recruitment drive. But when roles do come up, individuals who have registered interest with us will be the first port of call on our database.”

It’s also worth targeting employers you are interested in with speculative applications, detailing what you can offer and asking to meet for a chat about opportunities.

Don’t forget to use online search engines to find out about jobs. is a neat little search firm which focuses on placing people in green jobs. Right now it is advertising for engineers and software developers.

Email your career question to or visit for more answers.

Taken from the Daily Telegraph

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Age Mock Tribunal

The Employers Forum on Age in association with Lewis Silkin invites you to a Mock Tribunal. The only time you'll get to go to a tribunal where everyone's a winner! This is a unique opportunity to hear from a lawyer, tribunal judge and barrister in a simulated hearing focussed on discrimination on grounds of age.

Experience the drama and tension of a tribunal first hand but without paying the penalty if you get things wrong.

Guided by legal experts Lewis Silkin, you will learn - the proceedings, the evidence required, the possible objective justifications and potential questions, who might be called and what will they be asked. And have a chance to cast your verdict.

Whether you're an in-house lawyer, HR specialist or line manager you are going to want to be at this event.

Employers Forum on Age

Monday, 20 September 2010

Wise Owls are moving

Due to our continued success. Wise Owls have now outgrown our offices in Bethnal Green. We have found some new offices that will fit us all in and are looking forward to establishing ourselves there.

The address is: 95 White Lion Street. Angel, Islington N1 9PF‎. Our new phone numbers are not yet known but we will post the details as soon as they are known.

Wise Owls are continuing with all our programmes in this period:

Life Long Learning
Experience Works
Equality Recruitment
One-to-One support

Our emails remin the same.


The Wise Owls team.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

When retirement takes you by surprise

What happens if you have planned nicely for your retirement date, but then your retirement date picks you?
Many Americans fantasise about retirement. They responsibly stash cash to fund the happy pursuits of their golden years, only to find retirement forced upon them, amid the chilling spectre of financial insecurity.

Gone are the dreams of moving to a nice house in Florida, close to the golf course and a good steak restaurant - not to mention dangling the carrot of a seaside holiday before the grandkids.

Historic redundancies and business closures - coupled with the stark reality that paltry returns have significantly diminished the value of invested nest eggs - have dulled retirement's sheen of possibility for vast numbers of Americans.

For some, it is downright terrifying - especially when they have not chosen it.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of unemployed people over the age of 55 is currently hovering around 7.3% - more than twice what it was in December 2007.

That figure is the highest the 55+ age group has seen since 1948, when the BLS began collecting its data.

'New unemployables'

Although younger workers are more likely to lose their jobs in this recession, once an older worker has lost his or her job, they are significantly less likely to find another one.

"Older workers have much greater difficulty reconnecting with the labour market," says Carl Van Horn, who heads the John J Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.

"For them losing a job is catastrophic."

Many of these people will never work again. Mr Van Horn calls them the "new unemployables".

Catherine Collinson, President of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, says an "alarming number of Americans" have not formally planned for retirement.

Most, she says, quickly discover they simply have not saved enough to fund their retirement.

American retirees are eligible for a Social Security benefit for the government.

But most workers are not eligible to receive the full benefit until the are 66. That is not much help if you lose your job at 58.

Transitional struggles

Dwight Moore, president of Lifeshift, a counselling company, says that after years of defining themselves in relation to their work new retirees often struggle with questions of identity.

Imagine you are at a party and somebody asks what you do. What happens when you do not want to answer?

"It's not sufficient from a self-worth perspective to say I am retired or I got laid off," Mr Moore says. "Some people feel embarrassed. For others it's worse: shame, despair, depression."

Start Quote

In retirement, you lose all of the people that you used to hang out with at work. That can be pretty difficult, especially for men. Women are more adept at having social networks”

Dwight MoorePresident, Lifeshift

Mr Van Horn's research suggest that for most people who are laid off, the news comes quickly, leaving little time to mentally prepare for the psychological minefield ahead.

New retirees often face the daunting task of filling the rest of their days, an especially pronounced fear for people accustomed to a life of blackberries, meetings and schedulers.

Mr Moore says many trades people end up in the informal economy, falling back on their skills to do odd jobs or favours for friend and neighbours.

They often do not do this for cash or tax reasons, but to have a sense of purpose and a connection to their community.

Early retirees have created a cottage industry of sorts, which also doubles as a way of combating loneliness.

"In retirement, you lose all of the people that you used to hang out with at work. That can be pretty difficult, especially for men. Women are more adept at having social networks. Men get isolated," Mr Moore says.

It can also be a strain on marriages. Many couples have a difficulty adjusting to having a spouse that is always around. They are not sure how to cope with so much time together.

"They married for better or for worse, but not for lunch," Mr Moore quips.

Historic debt

The financial burden of early retirement is unquestionable, but in America, historic levels of consumer debt have made it almost unbearable.

David Jones, President of the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies, says financial counsellors are increasingly seeing people retiring with $60-$70,000 (£39-£45,000) in non-mortgage related debt.

"There's going to be drastic changes for a lot of these people. They're not going to have premium cable TV and cell phones. They'll stick with a used car and keep it for ten years," he says. Many opt for bankruptcy.

"The thought of these people having a comfortable retirement, it's not going to happen."

It seems that message is sinking in.

In a 2010 survey by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, only 7% of full-time workers said they were very confident that they will retire with a lifestyle they consider comfortable.

In 2005, that number was 25%.

'Nobody needs me'

Perhaps the deepest scars for the early-retired are emotional ones.

Start Quote

One of the saddest things in the world is when you finally know the answers to some of the questions you've been asking your whole life, and suddenly nobody is asking you those questions anymore.”

Jean CoyleUnemployed Presbyterian Chaplain

Many parents are stricken with shame about becoming financially dependent on their children.

In Mr Van Horn's research, being economically reliant on your children is second only to the death of a spouse in terms of grief amongst older people.

For Jean Coyle, an unemployed 65-year-old from Virginia with three degrees in sociology (including a PhD), the worst part of being laid of late in life is the "psychological blow of feeling like nobody needs you".

Ms Coyle switched careers in her fifties, becoming an ordained Presbyterian minister. She was laid off three years ago after her church suffered financial hardship.

"You feel discarded," she says. "I feel totally invisible. I don't foresee any immediate or even long-term answers because I'm only getting older."

She described the pain of opening up her e-mail day after day, only to receive snippy rejection emails, telling her she did not match an employer's needs.

Ironically, when Ms Coyle was a university professor she taught her students about the challenges of an ageing society.

She used to tell her students that "one of the saddest things in the world is when you finally know the answers to some of the questions you've been asking your whole life, and suddenly nobody is asking you those questions anymore".

"I'm living that now," she says.

Article originally from the BBC

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Big increase in number of over 65s in work

Yesterday’s official employment figures showed a significant increase in the number of people aged over 65 who are in work, something that we at PRIME have been monitoring for some time.

Up until this month, ONS had been reporting employment rates for older people based on State Pension Age, ie women over 60, and men over 65. However, now that we are facing changes to the age at which people can start to draw their Pension, ONS are using the new measure of 65+ for both sexes.

chart of economic activity by ageA

As the chart shows (click to enlarge), economic activity rates for ‘pensioners’ have been rising steadily over the period of the recession whilst they’ve been pretty flat for younger age groups.

Whilst on the face of it this may seem to be good news, we still face some major challenges.

We currently have almost 3 million people aged between 50 and current Pension Age who are out of work, costing the UK economy over £72 billion a year.

Since August 2008, the number of unemployed over 50s has risen by 51%, compared with 36% for the under 50s.

A disproportionate number of over 50s are becoming long-term unemployed, and the prospects of re-employment are not encouraging for the huge number of public sector workers who are projected to lose their jobs over the next few years.

A combination of demographic change and changes to State Pension Age will bring an estimated 3.6 million extra older people into the workforce over the next 20 years, but unless steps are taken to address the higher levels of worklessness experienced by the 50+ age group, only half of these workers will have jobs. For the others, we may be simply shifting them from drawing their State Pensions to claiming an ou-of-work benefit.

At this time when Government is putting together the specifications for the new single Work Programme to tackle unemployment, we cannot afford to miss the opportunity to build in tailored, effective measures to help a significant number of the 3 million workless over-50s back to work.

With almost one-in-five of the over 50s who are in work being self-employed††, these measures must include help to make the transition from employment or unemployment to self-employment.

source: ONS Labour Market Statistical Bulletin July 2010

††source: ONS Annual Population Survey, September 2009

Peter Bennie

Director of Development


This article was taken from Prime

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Fairness for Older Workers (U.S)

Fifteen months ago, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority mowed past statutory language, Congressional intent and decades of precedent to make it much harder for older workers to prove age discrimination.

Under the 5-to-4 ruling, it is no longer sufficient for employees claiming illegal age bias to show that age was a motivating factor in their demotion or layoff. They must show that age was the decisive factor, an unfairly tough standard of proof and a major watering down of older workers’ civil rights.

Fortunately, the court’s mangling of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 need not stand. Legislation introduced last fall by Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa and Representative George Miller of California, both Democrats, would reverse the ruling, once again making the standard for proving age discrimination equivalent to the standard for proving discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion and national origin.

Once a worker showed age discrimination was a factor in his or her treatment, an employer could still win by showing it would have made the same employment decision, regardless of the worker’s age.

So far, the measure has attracted no Republican co-sponsors. But standing in the way of fair treatment of older workers is bad policy and bad politics, especially at a moment of soaring unemployment and rising age discrimination claims. This is one of the few areas where progress should be possible even in the charged lead-up to the midterm elections.

In fact, talks are under way among business and civil rights groups, advocates for older people, including AARP, and lawmakers of both parties that could potentially result in a deal on good remedial legislation.

Meantime, the problem is spreading. Some lower federal courts have read the Supreme Court’s ruling to raise the bar for employment claims under other statutes, including the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Prompt Congressional action is needed to contain the damage.

This article was produced by the New York Times

Monday, 13 September 2010

Women to retire with less money in pension timebomb

PENSIONS are a mystery to large numbers of workers, with women particularly confused by retirement planning, new research reveals.

Even among those women who have a pension plan, large numbers admit they have no idea how much they are contributing.

And half of the women surveyed have no idea how the tax reliefs on pension investment works, the research carried out for Friends First shows.

The findings prompted financial experts to conclude that women were now facing a pension timebomb.

One in four of all those surveyed had no idea what type, if any, pension they have. But this rises to one in three for women.

The survey reveals women are less prepared for their retirement than their male colleagues

Four out of 10 women admit they do not have a pension plan compared with three out of 10 men. Men, on the other hand, contribute more to their pensions and have better quality retirement funds. They also have a better understanding of how pensions work.

Investing in a pension is regarded as highly tax efficient. For someone on the 41pc income tax rate they can end up with €100 in pension investment for just €50 because of the way the tax reliefs work.

But four out of 10 people do not understand how the tax benefits for investing in a pension work. When it comes to women, half of them do not understand the tax reliefs for investing in a pension.

"This research indicates that there is a real inequality between the sexes when it comes to pension provision," Friends First's head of pensions Simon Hoffman said.

"Our survey reveals that women are less well-informed and therefore at a greater risk of not providing adequately for their retirement. This inequality is a cause for concern and points to a need for greater education among female workers."


Mr Hoffman said it was clear that perceived complexity remained a significant barrier to increasing private pension provision.

The recently published National Pensions Framework Strategy made a number of proposals to encourage more people to take out private pensions and to encourage people to put more into their retirement fund.

However, Mr Hoffman said there had been too many changes in the past few years, many of them making the situation worse.

"By tinkering around the edges with our pension system over the last number of decades we have created a system which alienates those who need pensions most," he added.

- Charlie Weston

Irish Independent

Friday, 3 September 2010

Government publishes details of Equality Act coming into force on 1 October 2010

Alcoholics, smokers, voyeurs and exhibitionists will not be protected by disability provisions in the Equality Act, elements of which come into force on 1 October 2010.

The Government published the Equality Act 2010 (Disability) Regulations 2010 on 31 August, which include provisions that support the definition of disability in the Equality Act 2010.

Under the Equality Act 2010, which replaces all existing discrimination laws including the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, employers and service providers are not allowed to discriminate on the grounds of individuals' physical or mental disabilities.

However, there are certain conditions that have been specifically excluded from constituting a disability, such as: addictions to alcohol, nicotine, or any other substance; some mental health conditions such as a compulsion towards exhibitionism or voyeurism; and hay fever, unless it aggravates the effect of another condition.

Addictions that were originally the result of the administration of medically prescribed drugs or other medical treatment are included under the act. More detail is provided here.

Those that have been certified blind, sight-impaired or partially sighted by a consultant ophthalmologist will be deemed to have a disability under the regulations.

Stephen Simpson, senior employment law editor at XpertHR, says the new legislation carried across some uncontroversial exclusions to the new Equality Act.

"What's more interesting is what has been left out of the Regulations," he told Personnel Today. "An individual no longer has to show that, where an impairment adversely affects his or her ability to carry out a normal day-to-day activity, that activity involves one of a specified list of capacities, such as mobility, speech, or the ability to understand.

"It will be left to tribunals to make a common-sense decision as to whether or not a particular impairment has a substantial effect on day-to-day activities. This should make it easier for individuals to show that they are disabled under the Equality Act 2010."
Daniel Barnett, employment law barrister at Temple Garden Chambers, said: "This law makes it clear that employers are not required to make special adjustments to welcome voyeurs or exhibitionists into the workplace. Nor are employers required to make allowances for any mental disability if an employers wants to dismiss someone who turns out to be a voyeur or flasher."
In addition, the Government is planning to replace the guidance on matters to be taken into account in determining whether or not an employee is disabled under the DDA with updated guidance to take account of the Equality Act 2010. It is consulting on draft guidance until 31 October 2010.

The Equality Act 2010 (Sex Equality Rule) (Exceptions) Regulations 2010 and Equality Act (Age Exceptions for Pension Schemes) Order 2010, which come into force on 1 October 2010, have also been published. These regulations set out exceptions to the rules on non-discrimination in relation to sex and age for occupational health schemes.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Employer seeking ‘younger’ replacement guilty of age discrimination

In a recent decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT), an employer who had included the word ‘younger’ in a person specification drafted for the purpose of replacing an employee, was found to have committed an act of age discrimination and had unfairly dismissed that employee.

The claimant in this case, Mr Beck, was employed as head of marketing by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. The Bank was not happy with his performance and dismissed him for redundancy, at the age of 42. An employment agency was instructed to recruit a replacement, and the Bank’s person specification for this purpose stated that it was “seeking younger, entrepreneurial profile”.

Mr Beck’s claim for unfair dismissal was upheld. The tribunal was satisfied that the Bank did not have a potentially fair reason for his dismissal. The tribunal also upheld Mr Beck’s claim for age discrimination.

The Bank’s appeal to the EAT has now been dismissed. The tribunal had noted that the word “younger” had been included in several drafts of the person specification, against the express advice of the Bank’s head of HR. The EAT agreed that the use of this word constituted the “clearest possible evidence of potential age discrimination”. The Bank attempted to argue that “younger” did not refer to age but referred to a less “senior” individual who would be less expensive, but the EAT was not convinced by this argument.

Tina Maxey, an employment solicitor at Steeles Law commented: “This case provides a good illustration of the approach taken by employment tribunals to the use of overtly ‘ageist’ language in recruitment materials.

"The Bank attempted to disprove the allegation of age discrimination by pointing out that one of the preferred candidates was 50 years old, and the person eventually appointed was 38 years old – just four years younger than the claimant (who had himself been appointed at the age of 41). Both the tribunal and the EAT gave this argument short shrift in light of the wording used in the person specification.”

She added: “The case also demonstrates that employers should take the advice of their own HR experts!”