Age Discrimination: Examples and What You Need to Know

Carol Smith

Carol Smith

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12 Oct 2018

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The Equality Act 2010 forbids you from discriminating against job seekers, your staff, and trainees. In this guide, we’re going to focus on age discrimination.

What about the Age Discrimination Act 2006?

We did have an age discrimination act in the UK. But on October 1, 2010, the Equality Act replaced this legislation.

The Equality Act protects people from behaviour that targets any of their protected characteristics in a way that is discriminatory.

What are the protected characteristics?

There are nine of them:

  1. Gender reassignment.
  2. Marriage and civil partnership.
  3. Pregnancy and maternity.
  4. Religion and belief.
  5. Sexual orientation.

We all have our own set of protected characteristics. As you can see, age is one of the nine.

Examples of age discrimination

First, there’s direct age discrimination.

This one is clear-cut and easy to remember. It’s when you treat someone less favourably because of his or her age. You might do this in one of three ways.

  1. Less favourable treatment towards someone because of their real age—e.g. choosing not to promote someone because you decide that they’re too young to lead a team.
  2. Less favourable treatment towards someone because of their perceived age. For this to happen, you must treat someone worse than you treat others because of what you think the person’s age is.
  3. Associative age discrimination. Say what? Don’t worry, this one’s easy, too. It’s when you treat someone worse than others because of someone else’s age. This someone else could be a friend, partner, spouse, or family member. It has to be someone they associate with, though—hence the term.

Second, we have indirect age discrimination. Many examples of age discrimination during the recruitment process are instances of indirect discrimination.

This occurs when your business has a policy or practice in your organisation that applies to all workers. But, the policy or practice treats people of a certain age less favourably than others.

So, let’s say you’re looking to hire someone for a new role—but you want someone with at least ten years’ experience.

Unless you can prove that this restrictive handicap is for appropriate and necessary reasons—such as for health and safety or for your business operations to run effectively—you’re likely to face an employment tribunal claim for age discrimination from younger job seekers, such as graduates fresh out of university.

Think of indirect discrimination as trying to treat everyone the same, but someone or members of a certain group suffer from this equal treatment due to how the treatment interacts with their protected characteristic.

And Third, we have harassment.

Ever called an employee a nickname because of their age? For example, Old Joe or Young Sally? Well, it’s discrimination against their age in the form of harassment. Avoid it.

Any conduct based on a protected characteristic (such as age) that makes someone feel intimidated, shamed, upset, or humiliated—is harassment.

Fourth, we have victimisation.

If an employee suffers “detrimental treatment” after they lodge a grievance (make a complaint) at work related to discrimination, it’s victimisation.

This applies whether they lodged the grievance on behalf of themselves or a colleague.

It’s also victimisation to subject someone to detrimental treatment if they’ve made a legal tribunal claim.

Victimisation is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.

What can you do to prevent age discrimination in your workplace?

You should review your company policies to ensure that they protect your staff from age discrimination. Think about your policies for:

  • Training employees.
  • Dismissing employees.
  • Handling a grievance or disciplinary.
  • Selecting employees for promotion.
  • Deciding terms and conditions of employment.

Talk to an Expert

Give Croner’s employment law experts a call if you’ve got a question about age discrimination. 0808 145 3379.

About the Author

Carol Smith

Carol joined Croner in 2001 as an Employment Consultant advising a wide range of clients on all aspects of Employment Law and HR practice. She demonstrates particular expertise in complex disciplinary, grievance matters and reorganisation / redundancy.

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Carol Smith

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