Earlier this month, Acas issued guidance on age discrimination and information for workplaces outlining important points for businesses to consider including steps to take to avoid age discrimination in the workplace and examples of how age discrimination might occur.
Age is one of the nine protected characteristics within the Equality Act 2010. This means that an employee is protected against discrimination because of age. It is important to remember that this discrimination doesn’t only occur when a “young person” receives better treatment than an “older person” (or vice versa) and the age difference causing the discriminatory behaviour might be quite small.
Discrimination on the grounds of age may occur as a result of:
- Direct discrimination – where somebody is treated differently because of their actual age, the age of somebody they are associated with or the age they are thought to be regardless of whether the perception is correct or not
- Indirect discrimination – where a “provision, criterion or practice” (usually an employer’s policies, procedures, rules etc.) would place someone at a disadvantage
- Victimisation – where somebody suffers a detriment, for example because they have made an allegation of discrimination, supported a complaint of discrimination or gave evidence in relation to a claim of discrimination
- Harassment – where someone receives “unwanted conduct” in connection with age, either because of their own age, the age they are thought to be, the age of someone they are associated with or when ageism is common in the workplace
Age discrimination might happen at any point of employment, but is more likely to occur during recruitment, training, promotion, pay and terms and conditions, dismissal and flexible working. Employers therefore need to have appropriate policies and procedures in place to ensure that age discrimination, either direct or indirect, doesn’t arise during these processes.
Acas also set out some obligations for employers to reduce the chance of discrimination happening. These include:
- Tackling ageist remarks made in the workplace
- Not discriminating against job applications because of their age
- Not making age based assumptions about what applicants and employees are capable of
- Not pressurising an employee into retiring; and
- Deciding that there is little value in training older employees and focus all training opportunities for younger staff members.
As mentioned, age is one of the nine protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010 and it is important that businesses have an understanding of these and the requirements set out in the legislation. We have jointly created an online training programme on equality, diversity and inclusion, which looks at this area in more detail. Please get in touch with a member of the Employment Team to discuss this and the themes set out above for more information.