Tackling Age Imbalance: The Film and TV Industry Could Blaze the Trail For Workplace Egalitarianism

Older workers have much to offer, and not just in TV and Film

Published by Nigel Pritchard on Jul 05, 2022

In its recent report, Absent Friends: Scaling the Film and TV Industry’s Retention Problem, the UK Film and TV Charity said that the industry needed to embrace and support the older worker. The upside in doing so, they say, would be to retain and attract 35,000 older workers into an industry struggling to fill all its vacancies and to deal with a transparent and, dare we say, alarming age imbalance.

The charity’s analysis of the workforce shows a striking shortfall in the number of people over the age of 50 working in the industry. The organisation cites the sector’s unfavourable working conditions, such as long hours, pressurised environments, and a lack of work life balance, for this unwelcome trend. These conditions impact people’s general wellbeing and lead to them leaving for a better life balance. As these people exit the tendency is to bring younger people in, hence the age imbalance in the industry.

From our experience this issue of imbalance is not just symptomatic of the Film and TV industry. Since the pandemic we are seeing the over 50s increasingly retiring early and this is reinforced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which found that there are more than 200,000 fewer over 50s in employment now than prior to Covid. Even though, as reported by the ONS, “the number of job vacancies in March to May 2022 rose to a new record of 1,300,000; an increase of 20,000 from the previous quarter, and an increase of 503,900 from the pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic level in January to March 2020. “

The older worker has much to offer, especially in the current environment. They have a depth of knowledge and experience that can help organisations navigate their way through the current ‘choppy economic and social waters,’ as well as the unprecedented level of disruption, which is unfolding before us, at what seems to be every turn.

However, to retain and attract the experience, knowledge and skills, employers need to reflect on the reasons people leave, and deal with the root causes not the symptoms. Given this, it is essential for employers to consider flexible working practices, be that a mix of part-time, job sharing, annual hours, hybrid working, longer holidays, the use of sabbaticals or learning breaks. Employers also need to take a hard look at ageist policies, most of which would be unsaid but still be embedded in an organisation’s culture and DNA. This means rooting out and tackling attitudes and bias at all levels in an organisation. Furthermore, employers need to think about the job itself, one suggestion being to allow employees to take a couple of days a month to follow-up on an internal project/idea of their own choosing, which needs not necessarily be anything to do with their specific job. As an aside, we have seen people put significantly more of their own time into such projects. Another idea would be for employers to allow employees the time to work in the community. As we move through the years organisations are going to have to think more seriously about purpose before profit especially as social and environmental activism is going to reach a crescendo with inequality, isms and climate change constantly being amplified and coming into sharper focus and increased scrutiny.

Attracting and retaining experienced, knowledgeable staff is going to require a fundamental mindset shift by employers of all hues. The report from the Film and TV industry is pretty timely, and as a sector they could blaze the trail for us all.