Wednesday, 3 December 2014
I am an older woman. I have listened to older women working in the private and public sectors and know there are many similar issues affecting older women in the workplace.
At the STUC Women’s Conference in November, I listened to Kathleen Bolt outline the legal perspective and implications of accessing, sustaining & progressing in employment for older women. I realised that in order to demand rights for older women, firstly, older women and their representatives in the workplace need to know what they are.
I have listened intently to Miriam O’Reilly describe the events that took over her life when this remarkable woman took on the might of the BBC in an age discrimination case and won. Unfortunately, older women still face barriers and discrimination from their employers and potential employers on a daily basis.
As a Union Equality and Workplace Representative, I have many examples of the issues facing many women members, both in the private and public sectors in their working life.
The woman working in a bank who, when facing redundancy, was advised she was ‘too old’ to be retrained while her male counterpart, the same age, was deemed as ‘being ready to take on the challenge of a new role’ both were aged 37.
The women, who after years of gaining higher qualifications, attending college and university, coming of that sticky floor, breaking through that glass ceiling, moving into lower managerial roles which somehow once re-evaluated, didn’t quite meet the same salary or status as the roles carried when men held these positions.
The nurse, now being expected to work additional years than she envisaged who said ‘as you pass 50, there are major changes in women’s health and it’s hard to keep up the same physical aspects in a role you may have been doing for 30 years already. My back will eventually give out and I won’t be able to apply for ill health retirement as the external agencies used to assess you rarely agree you are ‘ill enough’ for this option so you are managed out through capabilities.’
The library assistant, now suffering arthritis due to kneeling for years on hard concrete floors, never imagining what she did at work daily for all these years before kneeling mats were introduced, would result in health issues later in life.
The call centre worker who has never received any formal computer training but being performance measured using generic targets against younger workers who have been using computers since being introduced to them at nursery and primary school.
Are older women workers resigning from their workplaces or volunteering for redundancy rather than face formal absence, performance or disciplinary meetings?
I am supporting the ‘Older Women in the Workplace’ Reps event to be held in the STUC, Woodlands Road on Tuesday 9th December, hosted jointly by the STUC Women’s Committee, One Workplace Equal Rights and Close The Gap, and would encourage Reps to register to attend.