Age Discrimination

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Health Assured team

02 September 2021

As an employer, you must treat all your employees equally. You have a duty to protect employees from discrimination of any kind.

If you don’t take steps to end all forms of discrimination in the workplace, you could end up with fines and see good employees leave.

This guide will outline what age discrimination is, give you some examples, and tips for preventing it from occurring.

What is age discrimination in the workplace?

Age discrimination is when you treat someone differently because of their age. Age is one of the nine protected characteristics in the Equality Act (2010). This legislation protects people from unfair treatment due to their age in the UK.

Age discrimination can happen at any age. Age ranges place people into categories, many of which you'll find familiar. Categories can be broad or quite specific. They vary from person to person, depending on the situation.

Age discrimination laws in the workplace

There isn’t a dedicated age discrimination act. But, the Equality Act (2010) affirms that discrimination is unlawful when it relates to any of these protected characteristics:

  • Age.
  • Gender.
  • Race.
  • Disability.
  • Religion.
  • Pregnancy and maternity.
  • Sexual orientation.
  • Gender reassignment.
  • Marriage and civil partnership.

This act makes it illegal to treat someone differently because of their age.

Types of age discrimination

There are four main types of age discrimination. They include:

  • Direct age discrimination: When a person is treated less favourably because of their age in comparison with another.
  • Indirect age discrimination: When a workplace provision, criterion, or practice discriminates against a group of people of a different age range.
  • Age harassment: Uninvited conduct relating to someone else’s age. The conduct may violate a person’s dignity or create a fearful environment.
  • Age victimisation: Treating someone differently because they have complained about, or are believed to have complained about, age discrimination.

Because age is one of the nine protected characteristics, you must protect your employees from this kind of discrimination. You should not tolerate discrimination against age in the workplace of any kind, by managers or employees.

It's important to bear this in mind when creating new policies, reviewing grievances, and hiring new employees.

The consequences of breaching age discrimination laws within the Equality Act will be detrimental to the business.

Your organisation could be taken to an employment tribunal. The penalties for age discrimination tend to vary.

Compensation is uncapped, although very high awards are rare. Compensation is assessed by looking primarily at:

  • Loss of earnings and benefits (particularly relevant if the employee has left the organisation because of the discrimination).
  • Injury to feelings or, in some cases, psychiatric injury.

So, it’s worth making sure your workplace is doing everything it can to prevent these worst-case scenarios.

Examples of age discrimination in the workplace

These discrimination against age examples should give you a better understanding of how to spot it in the workplace:

  • Two colleagues are at risk of redundancy. There’s only one role available going forward, and both apply for the position. Both have the same experience and give good presentations during their interview. The hiring manager decides to offer the position to the younger employee. They feel as though the older candidate may retire soon anyway.
  • An employee puts forth a request to attend a training course. They think it will benefit them in future working. The manager denies the request stating there’s no scope for development in the team at the moment. A younger member of the team later asks if they can attend a similar course. The manager accepts the request, and the employee attends.
  • In a team meeting, an older employee puts forward an idea for a new creative campaign. Colleagues are supportive and praise the idea. Later, a younger member of the team begins making an alternative suggestion. Other team members interrupt the young employee before they can explain their idea. They mutter that the employee is too young to understand what is needed in this campaign. The younger employee feels upset and put off from making future suggestions.

How can you stop age discrimination in the workplace?

Discrimination can have negative effects on the victim, and on wider company culture. Here are steps you can take to prevent age discrimination from occurring in your workplace:

Equality training

Provide training that explains the Equality Act. Make colleagues aware of the protected characteristics. Educate them on the rules surrounding discrimination in the workplace and provide examples of the different types. Awareness is always the first step. So, make sure you communicate your policies regularly.

Discriminatory-free decision making

Make sure your decision-makers are aware of unconscious bias. It's important when handling redundancies and hiring new staff. Age discrimination and redundancy can sometimes go hand in hand.

Redundancy is such a sensitive subject matter, so it's best to be aware of all the protected characteristics during the decision-making process. Provide your managers with training to ensure they are aware of the repercussions.

Set up a diversity group

Set up a diversity and inclusion group in your workplace to promote an inclusive culture. Make it the group purpose to consider ways to irradicate discrimination in the workplace. When you start to prioritise inclusion in your culture, people feel valued and accepted as who they are. This will give employee engagement and productivity a boost too.

Get support for your staff with Health Assured

Create a healthy workspace and protect your staff members from age discrimination in the workplace.

Our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), provides advice on all types of employment issues.

Our EAP also comes with a wellbeing app, which your workers can use 24/7 – accessing unlimited wellbeing resources.

For guidance on eliminating age discrimination in the workplace, contact us today. Or arrange a call back from a workplace wellbeing expert today.

Call 0844 891 0358.

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