What qualifies as age discrimination?

Have you ever been treated unfairly because of your age? In the workplace this is unlawful and you can take action. In this article we’ll explore what age discrimination is, give some examples, and explain what you can do about it.

Older man and younger woman looking at a computer

 

Research suggests that age discrimination is rife in the  UK’s workplaces – both for older people and the under 25s. While some people could see this as normal, it can have serious consequences for people at work and those looking for jobs.

What is age discrimination?

Age discrimination is where a person is unfairly treated based on their age. Age discrimination examples could include being turned down for a job, being refused admission to an event or venue, or not being given membership to a society or club – all because of your age, or apparent age.

It can be a tricky area, because people might not always admit that age is the reason behind their action or decision. There are also different kinds of age discrimination.

What is direct age discrimination?

Direct age discrimination is where you’re treated less favourably than someone else because of your age, the age that someone thinks you are, or the age of someone you’re with.

An example is where you are told you can’t join a walking tour, because someone thinks that your age – or the age of your companion – means that you will slow the rest of the group down.

What is indirect age discrimination?

Indirect age discrimination is where certain rules are set that negatively effect everyone of a certain age. So you’re not singled out as an individual, but are still treated unfairly.

An example might be that a job is only open to people that have GCSE qualifications rather than O Levels, or that a club will only accept people that are working – thus excluding older people and those who are retired.

Age discrimination and the 2010 Equality Act

While there is no age discrimination act specifically, age is one of the ‘protected characteristics’ that comes under The 2010 Equality Act. This act specifically states that a person cannot be treated differently due to his or her age.

The Equality Act 2010 was introduced  to bring together more than 100 separate pieces of legislation into a single act – such as the Equal Pay Act, Sex Discrimination Act and Race Relations Act.

It was an important milestone for the UK, as it gave real clarity to how employers and other bodies should act in their dealings with people across diverse personal characteristics.

Age discrimination at work

Any age discrimination is unacceptable, but when it takes place in the workplace it can have far reaching consequences. People have been dismissed from their roles due to their age, which clearly impacts their income and potentially their future employability.

Discrimination at work can take many forms. It ranges from systematic, indirect discrimination where rules and guidelines treat people unfairly, through to workplace banter where you might repeatedly be the subject of age-related ‘teasing’ and jokes.

How to handle age discrimination

Whatever the source or the impact, if you’re being unfairly treated, you should speak up. The first step is to challenge those creating the situation – explain how you feel and why it is unfair. If no action is taken, take it to the next level in the chain. Some age discrimination cases end up in a tribunal and often result in compensation being paid to the victim.

Some useful sources of advice and information are the Equality Advisory Support Service and the Equality and Human Rights Commission. We also have some suggestions for avoiding age discrimination when applying for jobs.





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