AGEISM is rife in Britain’s shops, with many customers preferring to be served by younger workers rather than older employees.
And men are the worst culprits, with 97% showing prejudice to the age of shop assistants.
The shock new survey, conducted by Huddersfield research group Leadership Factor, reveals that the public favour the young – with men being the most likely to discriminate based on age.
The results show that despite the introduction of the Anti-Age Discrimination laws a year ago, designed to stamp out ageism in the workplace, the British public are a long way from feeling comfortable with older employees.
The company, which is the UK’s leading source of customer satisfaction data, researched the public’s attitudes towards customer service and found that almost all (97%) of man felt the age of an assistant was of concern.
Only 10% of all respondents said they would prefer a female shop assistant to be over the age of 45, and just 8% wanted a male shop assistant to fall into the same age group.
Whilst women were more open minded to the age of their assistant, with 52% expressing a preferred age, the optimum age for both male and female shop assistants was between the ages of 25 and 34.
Almost half (47%) of men wanted a female shop assistant to be this age.
The research, conducted by the Leadership Factor’s online consumer panel www.yoursaypays.co.uk, quizzed respondents on their attitudes towards the age of both male and female shop assistants.
With more than half the UK’s population estimated to be over the age of 50 by the year 2020, the findings will cause concern for employers in the retail sector.
Retailers face a difficult choice between maintaining customer satisfaction, fulfilling the requirements of the Anti-Age Discrimination Laws and filling posts in an ever-aging society.
Typically, 200 age-discrimination claims are lodged with tribunals each month over employees believing they have faced discriminatory behaviour because of their age.
Nigel Hill, founder of the Leadership Factor, said: “Our survey results show clearly how both sexes, though particularly men, show prejudice to the age of shop assistants.
“This can undoubtedly place employers in a difficult position – employ only young staff and they risk contravening the Anti-Age Discrimination laws, employ older staff and they risk denting their profit margins and customer satisfaction ratings.
“Whilst this seems like a ‘Catch 22’ situation, we believe that you can maintain excellent customer satisfaction ratings by concentrating on the things that matter the most to customers – helpful, friendly and knowledgeable staff.
“On these criteria there are no age ‘limits’ and we would suggest that, with the population becoming increasingly aged, employers would do well to recognise the breadth and depth of experience and product knowledge that older member of staff can bring to a team.”