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Equality has been a guiding principle for companies over the past several years. There has been no shortage of attempts to drive awareness for equal treatment of women, people of color and those involved in same-sex partnerships in the workplace.

However, one subset of employees that it's important to not overlook seems to be receiving less attention lately – older workers. In fact, in some cases, managers may not even realize that their older staff members may require additional considerations, leading to instances where companies act in problematic ways without even realizing it. Despite the fact that companies don't intend to maintain ageist policies, these practices can still perpetuate unknowingly.

Older employees are their own contingent
Many marginalized groups have made strides in achieving greater workplace equality over the past few years. However, it can be easy to overlook older employees – even innocuously – as a group that is worthy of similar consideration.

The fact is, however, that there is a growing contingent of elderly adults in the workforce today. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of seniors remaining at their jobs past standard retirement age – or even returning to work after retiring – has gone up in the past decade. While fewer seniors are maintaining full-time jobs, the percentage of elder adults who retain part-time positions has jumped significantly, with around 56 percent of seniors falling into this category, the source noted.

How does ageism creep into the workplace?
Recognizing that there is a growing number of seniors filling various job roles is a key first step to reducing the instances of ageism in the workplace. However, this takes active effort and awareness, Without consciously taking steps to accommodate older workers, it's possible for potentially discriminatory practices to arise, often without you or your employees even realizing it.

According to Human Resource Executive Online, a study conducted by researchers from Columbia Business School uncovered inherent biases in the workplace against older employees. For example, the study found that participants were less likely to assume that an older employee would be the best candidate for a job when only one position was open, instead only admitting to suitability in instances when there were multiple positions that needed to be filled. 

"When resources are scarce, older workers are getting penalized in a noticeable way," Aaron Wallen, lead study author, said.

Accommodating workers of all backgrounds and ages is crucial to maintaining an effective and compliant workplace. Small-business owners are encouraged to turn to PEO companies to provide cutting-edge HR services in an affordable way.