We report on recruitment specialist Bromak and its older candidates

It may not be the most glamorous of causes, but research shows that the age of an employee is the biggest cause of discrimination in the workplace. Moreover, it is thought to cost employers between £16bn and £31bn a year.

One company that is trying to reverse this trend is construction recruitment specialist Bromak, which has been recognised by the government for its role in tackling age discrimination and was awarded “Employer Champion” status by the Department for Work and Pensions’ Age Positive Campaign.

Bromak was set up in Bolton, Lancashire, two-and-a-half years ago by Martyn Makinson and David Brooks and specialises in the recruitment of construction candidates across the North-west and Yorkshire. Equality for all is at the heart of its work: Bromak has reviewed its employment policies ahead of European Union legislation that will make age discrimination in the workplace illegal from 2006.

Martyn Makinson, director of Bromak, says: “Many candidates who register with us are over 50 and in many instances have found it very difficult to find a new position, because of the fact that they are not 35 years old and single.”

The recruitment specialist noticed that the candidates’ demand for work was matched by the shortage of skills in the construction industry and, in Makinson’s words, began “to marry the two”. All Bromak’s consultants are trained to encourage and advise clients to look at candidates based on skills and ability, not age. “We want the companies to see the potential benefits older people can bring and to challenge the conception that they are sitting at their desk just waiting for their pension,” says Makinson.

But in dealing with their clients, Bromak does not use the tactics of a hard-nosed salesman who forces candidates upon them. Instead, it tries to show the clients that there is no harm in meeting an applicant for half an hour and heavily emphasises the older employees’ experience and, in many cases, their long-term commitment to one company.

We want to challenge the conception that older people sit at their desk all day waiting for their pension

Ron Ince is a case in point. The 62-year-old general foreman was made redundant after working for the same company for 25 years. Following his loss of employment, he registered with two agencies but did not hear back from them. Bromak helped him put a CV together and found him a position as a foreman on a major social housing project with a higher salary than he had previously been earning.

To prove its dedication to equality, Bromak joined the Age Positive campaign, which works with employers across Great Britain to promote the business benefits of age diversity.

Now, two-and-a-half years on, Bromak’s director has noticed that more clients have begun to take on older employees. “It’s a good time for older candidates at the moment because there is a lot of demand for experienced workers,” says Makinson. “To quantify the amount of construction projects under way, there is £1.5bn being spent on regeneration projects in the Yorkshire region alone.”

In the past two years, Bromak has seen a 15% increase in the number of older workers landing jobs in Yorkshire and the North-west.