Whilst we are all aware of sex, race and disability discrimination, ‘ageism’ is not something that receives as much air time. But, pursuant to the Equality Act 2010, age is also a protected characteristic and as such, treating someone unfairly because of their age is against the law (with some exceptions).
The Act aims to protect people from unfair treatment, harassment or different treatment because of their age, the age they are thought to be, or the age of someone they are associated with. It doesn’t matter if the discrimination is intentional, what matters is how the recipient perceives what is said or done. In practice, this should mean that employers should:
- Strive for an age diverse workforce.
- Encourage interaction between age groups (socially and in work based tasks or projects).
- Judge people on performance or quality of their work/application.
- Not be asking for age information and years’ of experience when hiring.
- Not stereotype or make assumptions about different age groups when deciding who to hire, train or promote.
- Manage under performance regardless of age.
- Not assume a person will retire or force them to do so, due to their age.
- Not tolerate the use of derogatory comments related to age.
Whilst most employers are vaguely aware of the issue, until now there has been little by way of guidance on how to navigate the law. As such, it’s no surprise that age discrimination is actually one of the most common forms of unfair treatment at work, particularly with workforces being increasingly age diverse.
The new Guidance from ACAS (The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) which can be found here seeks to educate employers, prevent unintentional discrimination and make a real start at stamping out ageism altogether. All in all a very important read!
For more information and advice contact our Employment law team.