The Top 5 Companies That Love Midlifers
It seems like modern media is keenly attuned to the world of discrimination, from thorny issues around race to LGBTQ+ rights to access for the differently-abled. However, one type of prejudice seems to get swept under the rug repeatedly, and that’s ageism, especially in the workplace. To find the top 5 companies that loved midlifers was more of a challenge than we thought. More of a disappointment than we originally anticipated.
In midlife, many of us have felt the unique pain of being ideally suited for a job, getting all the way through the interview, and losing out to a younger candidate for no reason. Hiring managers sometimes feel they can milk more years from a less experienced professional.
Despite advanced years in our field, a contradiction seems to be at play. Being a middle-aged interviewee seems to point not to reputation but the notion that we’re slow to pick up training, more “set in our ways” (read: stubborn), and less hip to new ideas and philosophies.
This has its roots in rumor, not reality.
The opposite can be true, too. Like any type of discrimination, ageism takes individual differences out of consideration. Our age group doesn’t define us professionally – our skills, personality, and know-how do.
The 5 best companies for midlifers right now
Disclaimer: With millions of companies out there, we know that company policies change all the time – for example, employee health benefits often change when they switch medical insurance providers. Benefits for a national organization might also vary across state lines, so it’s very hard to generalize.
We’ve done our best to compile the most midlifer-friendly companies offering work right now. Our research found that these companies offer some of the best flexibility, health plans, and 401(k) schemes – plus they’ve signed The AARP Employer Pledge Program:
- BlueCross BlueShield
- Dominion Energy Resources
- United Way
The AARP Pledge is an agreement that allows companies to outwardly demonstrate that they “affirm the value of experienced workers.” You’d imagine it’d be a forgone conclusion that companies would sign this pledge, wouldn’t you?
Well, we found some pretty disturbing data that shows just how entrenched ageism is in the U.S. economy right now – and we go into that further down if you want to feel completely outraged.
Just a hunch? Or is ageism a proven problem in the workplace?
CNBC ran this feature on how to spot ageism in an interview.
We shouldn’t discount our own experiences of ageism – they all hurt, and they all matter. At the same time, it can sometimes feel like we’re being a little paranoid
A 2021 report found that COVID-19 has made concrete this false image of older age groups as extremely vulnerable – an excuse and narrative workplaces regularly buy into to justify not hiring older candidates.
After all, if a hiring manager can pretend they’re concerned an older employee is going to be sick all the time (despite no evidence to suggest that), they can frame the decision as a financial one, rather than one born out of prejudice.
It’s not just hiring managers – the attitudes of the general public also seem to reflect a disdain toward older professionals.
A recent study tracked responses to a National Institutes of Health blog post discussing a grant that would help older academic researchers transition into retirement and hand their labs over to junior scientists. Aging researchers see a reward for their life’s work. Junior scientists get to start shaping their futures. Everybody wins, right?
The respondents not only disapproved of older investigators receiving the grant but generally found time to cast doubts about older researchers’ competence, productivity, and character. Even respondents who identified themselves as older had ageist views toward their own group, demonstrating a sad internalization of these backward attitudes.
But surely ageism isn’t that widespread a problem, and it’s restricted to poor hiring attitudes?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every second person holds some kind of ageist view, and this isn’t only evident in the workplace – older people may be denied medical treatment based on age, for example, and this cost the U.S. economy $63 billion across the eight most expensive health conditions in 2020.
Embracing midlife and older employees could make society a fairer, wealthier, and better place to live. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) knows this and started The AARP Employer Pledge Program to try and promote the idea of an age-balanced workforce.
This allows companies to pledge a commitment to experienced workers. They get a nice little digital sticker for their website and printed materials, as well as discounted job postings on the AARP board and written resources they can provide for older employees on financial security and caregiving.
This all sounds pretty easy, reasonable, and helpful, right? So why the f*ck – out of more than 23 million employers currently functioning in the United States – have just over 1,000 businesses been willing to make that commitment?
It’s a damn travesty that only 1 in 23,000 companies is willing to say, “Hey, we accept and embrace midlifers with bags of experience and skills.”
Can you imagine a company refusing to sign a pledge taking on differently-abled people? Or those belonging to a certain ethnicity? There’d be outrage. People would boycott those businesses and their products in a heartbeat.
So when it comes to people of different ages, what gives?
You can find out whether your current employer has signed the pledge here. If you don’t see their name on the list, speak to your HR department. Does your company have a plan to sign this pledge?
If you’re jobhunting, check whether the company you’re applying for displays the “AARP Pledge” sticker or signed up to the list of midlife-friendly employers.
And to the rest of you hiring managers: Get your sh*t together. You’re letting some of your most valuable employees down – as well as yourselves.
So Team Vippi bids these employers a hearty “f*ck you.” After all, they’ve already given midlifers the finger. We took a productive, proactive approach to connect you with employers who do give a sh*t about you.
What we looked for
It’s pretty hard finding companies who’ll grab the nearest megaphone and holler, “Hey! Older people suck! We refuse to hire them!” How will you know who to avoid?
We had to find other ways of filtering the trash and discovering which companies were more open to hiring midlifers. There were several criteria we had:
- The company had to have signed the AARP Pledge to show that they value the experience midlifers bring.
- They provide an excellent employee health plan with optical and dental cover.
- The company offers a competitive, forward-thinking pension plan.
- They have options for at-home flexibility or decent PTO allowances.
Team Vippi found this information on Glassdoor, a site on which employees and ex-employees rate their company for pay/benefits/general vibes as a place to work.
We trawled the comments for clues, checked the official ratings, and ran through the company-confirmed benefits to ensure they were Gen-X-friendly.
Was there a trend in our findings?
The best companies we found were large employers who hired and looked after thousands of people. It seems like smaller companies hedge their bets against hiring older employees, i.e midlifers.
These companies were generally based around older professions – medicine, insurance, and tax auditing services. It’d be a crass generalization to say that it’s mainly older industries that tolerate older employees, though. Even though there are few companies on the AARP’s pledge list, they come from a wide spread of different industries, including tech, home care, biotech, consulting, and education which is reassuring.
However, a common theme was that the benefits of one company looked very similar to the next. It’s almost as if the hiring managers had sat down, thought about what middle-aged employees really need, and worked to provide it.
The factors that seemed to appeal to midlifers included:
- The ability to plan and build a decent pension.
- The knowledge of being protected through health problems.
- The flexibility to account for caregiving obligations.
For this reason, no single company came out on top.
The top 5 companies that love midlifers
Here are the 5 companies we deemed as fair employers of midlifers.
As an insurer, you have to lead by example when it comes to your own employees. True to form, BlueCross BlueShield offers an extremely flexible healthcare plan to their employees, allowing them to pick their preferred premium and level of coverage.
They earned their 3.8 rating by:
- Offering a sabbatical program for extended time out.
- Providing medical, dental, and vision cover.
- They match 5 percent of your 401(k), then add 2 percent on top of that.
Dominion has been an energy provider for over 100 years. With a workforce of more than 10,000 employees, they provide opportunities for engineers, technicians, customer service reps, and analysts. The company’s huge, so the scope of jobs is, too.
They won awards 2 years running in 2018 and 2019 for being one of the best places to work for military veterans, as well as generally being considered one of the best places to work by the Human Rights Campaign.
It’s also rated 4.1 for benefits overall, including:
- A 4 percent 401(k) match for your first 10 years of employment, which increases the longer you spend working there.
- A health insurance plan with vision and dental through BlueCross BlueShield, which gets accepted almost everywhere. They didn’t get ranked too high for health insurance cover, with a meager 3.5 – but they didn’t dip too far below the standard expectation for employee medical benefits either.
- Time off to volunteer in your community, plus 3 weeks PTO every year – their employees gave them a rating of 4.6 for time off and flexible working hours.
Tax auditing and advice is exactly zero people’s idea of a good time – but it looks like KPMG, the youngest company on this list, makes it worth their employees’ while.
Rated 4.0 for employee benefits, their employees report:
- Being able to take time off to volunteer and a very generous PTO allocation of 28 days.
- Having versatile health, dental, and vision plans that suit the needs of midlifers.
- Receiving a “solid” 401(k) plan.
Pfizer has been in the news recently for all the right reasons – their vaccine has become a key instrument in the global fight against COVID-19.
It seems that they’re also vaccinated against ageism, having signed the AARP pledge. Their employees were raving about their vision plan in the comments, which even provides spectacles and contacts. Pfizer got a 4.0 for employee benefits, for the following reasons:
- They were flexible with working from home arrangements, even before the pandemic started.
- Extremely supportive when it comes to sick pay.
- They provide private dental cover and a solid medical insurance package.
- A PTO buy/sell scheme is in place so that employees can find more flexibility with time off.
- They even made it into Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work in 2021.
United Way is a (slightly) smaller operation than the others on this list, as it’s a non-profit. They focus on education, income, and health disparities across the world. And certainly, when it comes to countering ageism on their own shores, they put their money where their mouth is.
They got a score of 3.8 on Glassdoor, on the following grounds:
- The PTO scheme is especially flexible and incentivizing. For the first 3 years, you get 13 days PTO. Then, from 3-8 years, you get 20 days off. After that, you get 26 days of PTO, which is kind of crazy compared to other U.S. companies.
- They provide medical, dental, and vision benefits, for which they pay almost the full premium (United Way received a rating of 4.0 for medical insurance).
- They, too, have a 401(k) matching scheme, but this may vary between sites.
However, it’s worth noting that each branch of United Way is its own organization, so these benefits do vary between locations. If you’re thinking about a job here, check out their website first.
Midlife shouldn’t be a time during which you feel excluded from your job. It’s the apex of your abilities – the meeting point of your energy and experience – and you should give your time to a company that values you for these attributes.
Before you waste your time applying to a job, check on Glassdoor and make sure that:
- The company has signed the AARP pledge.
- They offer a 401(k) matching program.
- Their PTO scheme offers flexibility.
- They offer robust medical insurance cover as a benefit.
Bid “Sayonara” to any f*ckers that wouldn’t sign the pledge. Hold your head up high through any ageism you might encounter. And know that there’s a desk out there with your name on it at a workplace that embraces your many years in the trade.
Ageism is a global challenge: UN. (2021). https://www.who.int/news/item/18-03-2021-ageism-is-a-global-challenge-un
Kahana, E., et al. (2017). Beyond ageist attitudes: Researchers call for NIH action to limit funding for older academics. https://academic.oup.com/gerontologist/article/58/2/251/2877898
Swift, H., et al. (2021). Ageism in the time of COVID-19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7941503/