Extending working lives: age management in SMEs

Vanesa Fuertes, Valerie Egdell, Ronald McQuaid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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The purpose of this paper is to present a study of age management in small and medium‐sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK.


Qualitative data collection and exploratory research with six SMEs comprising of: initial interviews with representatives from the SMEs; action research activities designed to raise awareness of age management issues and age discrimination legislation; and follow‐up interviews to ascertain if awareness raising activities resulted in any changes, or planned changes, in policy, practice and attitudes towards older workers.


Good practice in age management can be found in SMEs, but was not found to be part of a systematic strategy. Negative practices and attitudes towards older workers are observed, with positive and negative age stereotypes coexisting. Negative stereotypes displayed can undermine the perceived economic value of older workers. There may be a gap between policy and practice, but awareness raising campaigns that reach employers can influence existing ways of working by showing the benefits of an age diverse workforce and helping reduce prejudices against older workers.

Research limitations/implications

The sample size is small and context specific. However, the study usefully illustrates different approaches to age management policies and practices in SMEs, and the potential benefits of age management awareness in influencing attitudes and practices towards older workers in SMEs.


The experience of age management in SMEs is under researched and examples of good practice in age management are often drawn from large organisations. The paper highlights that SMEs often lack the resources to seek advice regarding age management; therefore, those responsible for age management awareness raising activities may need to approach businesses directly.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272-293
Number of pages22
JournalEmployee Relations
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Older workers
  • Human resource management
  • SMEs
  • Age management
  • Ageing population
  • United Kingdom


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  • Highly Commended Paper

    Fuertes, Vanesa (Recipient), Egdell, Valerie (Recipient) & McQuaid, Ronald (Recipient), 2014

    Prize: Prize (including medals and awards)

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