Age Discrimination in the Workplace

When age discrimination in the workplace is mentioned, it’s often forgotten that it can rear its head in many ways. Though being discriminated against because you’re too old is unpleasant and unacceptable, the same definitely goes for being the wrong age in any way, including being too young. It’s always important, therefore, to understand what your rights and options are if something happens. It might be that you resolve the matter and stay. However, it might also be that you would prefer to negotiate a settlement agreement before leaving.

But first things first, what is age discrimination in the workplace?

Age discrimination in the workplace refers to both employees AND potential employees…

Under the Equality Act 2010, regardless of whether you’re a full employee or ‘just’ a potential employee, you shouldn’t be disadvantaged or discriminated against by any conditions of employment because of your age. Nor should you be dismissed, hired, or treated differently because of it either.
And there is one thing in particular to note regarding age discrimination in the workplace… it doesn’t matter how long you’ve worked for the company; there are NO minimum time-in-service requirements.

What types of age discrimination in the workplace are there?

There are actually 4 ways it can occur…

1. Direct age discrimination – Put simply, if an employer, or their staff, treat another individual less favourably because of their age, then they are being directly discriminated against.

2. Indirect age discrimination – This may occur if a provision, criterion or policy/practice of the business actually disadvantages someone when it’s universally applied. This sounds confusing, so an example helps. Consider an advert for a vacancy that states applicants need to have a certain amount of experience to be considered. This could impact younger applicants who’ve not had time to build that amount of experience but are qualified for the position. This would be indirect age discrimination.

3. Harassment – With respect to age discrimination, harassment may appear in the form of jokes about your age that you find offensive. But it can also occur if, for example, an event is organised that excludes you from attending because of your age.

4. Victimisation – You may be deemed to be being victimised if you are treated less favourably because you have made a complaint regarding age discrimination. A good example would be that you’ve been refused access to training because you have made a complaint on such a basis.

What is the best thing to do?

We’d recommend you take advice before you do anything. You’ll then know how to proceed. It might be that the issue can be resolved simply through discussion. However, it might also be that you choose to leave having negotiated a settlement agreement with your employer. Of course, there are many paths you could take, though. So please do give us a call. We give guidance on this and similar topics to individuals all the time.


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