Age Discrimination in the Workplace

Everyone knows it is illegal to discriminate an employee, job seeker or trainee in terms of his or her age. However, do you know that The Equality Act 2010 also makes it unlawful to discriminate against people in terms of their ‘perceived’ age or the ages of those they associate with?

Take a look at our guide to age discrimination in the workplace for more information.

What is age discrimination?

When an employer denies certain employees promotions, jobs or comparable wages because of their age, it is age discrimination. It may also occur on an everyday level – belitting or harassing people because of their age, for example saying that they are ‘too old’ or even comments about retirement with the ‘pipe and slippers’ cliché.

Acas breaks down age discrimination into four main types

1. Direct discrimination
This direct discrimination could be down to the employee’s actual age, but it could also caused by their perceived age. For example, if an employee misses opportunities because it is felt they look younger than they actually are. It may also be a result of who the employee associates with, for instance if they regularly socialise with people younger or older than themselves.

2. Indirect discrimination

Indirectly discriminating against an employee, or a group of employees, can occur where there is a policy, practice, procedure or workplace rule that applies to everyone but particularly disadvantages people of a particular age.

Acas states that one example is “a requirement for job applicants to have worked in a particular industry for ten years may disadvantage younger people.”

3. Harassment

As with any harassment or bullying, unwanted attention and comments related to an individual’s age can create an intimidating, hostile and offensive environment.

4. Victimisation

Victimisation is where there is unfair treatment of an employee who has made or supported a complaint about age discrimination.

Are there exceptions?

In some limited circumstances, indirect discrimination may be justified if it is ‘a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’. This is where the law permits employers to discriminate because of a person’s age in a range of situations, if the employer can show that what it has done is justified. This may include setting a maximum age for physically demanding jobs, benefits based on length of service, minimum wage qualifications or insurance or related financial services.

How can you prevent age discrimination in your workplace?

You must have policies in place that clearly set out the obligations to all employees to treat people fairly regardless of age, and educate your staff on their responsibilities. This would include policies such as

  • recruitment
  • terms and conditions of employment
  • training and development
  • promotion
  • discipline and grievances
  • bullying and harassment
  • dismissal and redundancies.

If you require help introducing policies that prevent age discrimination in your business, contact us today.




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