One in six workers feel they have been discriminated against when applying for a job or promotion at some point in their career because of favouritism in the workplace.

The findings from a new study from the Employers Forum on Age (EFA) has revealed that there is a tendency for people to recruit workers who bear similarities to themselves or to others in their company and this is done, for the most part, unconsciously.

In total, over a third (35%) of respondents felt they have been discriminated against when trying to move company or applying for a more senior position in the same company. Age is the most common reason (17%), closely followed by favouritism/the other candidate fitting the company’s ‘personality’ better (16%). Workers in the North were most likely to feel they had fallen victim to favouritism, with 22% in the North East and 19% in the North West believing that they had been discriminated against for this reason, compared to 11% in Northern Ireland and 12% in the South West.

Denise Keating, Chief Executive, Employers Forum on Age commented:

Whilst age is the biggest discriminator in the workplace, it is important not to overlook other biases, such as favouritism or gender. There seems to be a very high instance of people being selected for a new job or promotion if their ‘face fits’, which unfortunately means some people feel that talent isn’t enough to overcome prejudices. Whilst many companies have solid diversity policies, this may not run throughout the company down to individual team level, which is an issue that needs to be addressed.”

The study also found that almost two thirds (62%) of employees said that all, most or some of their colleagues are similar to them. When asked what it is they had in common with their co-workers, age was found to be the most common factor (68%), followed by gender (62%) and social background (53%).

Workplaces in Yorkshire and Humber were found to be the least varied, with only 25% of respondents claiming to bear no similarity to any of their colleagues, while there was greater than average diversity in the East Midlands, Northern Ireland, London and East of England (32%). In addition, unconscious bias in the private sector is more prevalent than the public sector with 29% vs 35% respectively saying they felt part of a very varied workplace.