New research shows that the number of age discrimination complaints being taken to employment tribunals is up by 74 per cent year-on-year.
Employers are being urged to actively remove biases in recruitment while also making sure workplace cultures are “age inclusive”. The call comes after the online community website for over 50s, Rest Less, analysed statistics from the Ministry of Justice and found that age discrimination cases have risen significantly over the past twelve months.
The official figures show that there were 3,667 complaints of age discrimination made to employment tribunals in 2020, up from 2,112 in 2019. This represents a 74 per cent increase, which is the highest increase in any area of complaint.
Rest Less warn that this potential discrimination is happening at a time when the unemployment rate for the over-50s is soaring. Unemployment in the over-50s reached 426,000 in the final three months of 2020, a 48 per cent increase year-on-year. The over-50s age group were also hit with an increase in redundancies, with 284,685 in total last year.
Experts point to the pandemic exacerbating age discrimination, both in the workplace and within the recruitment process. Stuart Lewis, founder of Rest Less, says he fears there will be a “new wave of redundancies” on the way. He stated:
[The pandemic is] leading to an increase in the number of employment tribunal cases based on age discrimination – and it’s likely to get worse.
We know that once made redundant, older workers are more likely to drift into long-term unemployment than their younger counterparts.
Patrick Thomson, senior programme manager at the Centre for Ageing Better, said he was worried that so many older workers were needing to pursue employment tribunals. He said:
We know that age is often the last unspoken and accepted form of discrimination in the workplace.
It has never been more important for employers to make sure they are genuinely recruiting the best person for the job, regardless of age – and retaining their experienced older workforce.
The figures come after an April report from The Resolution Foundation found that, after almost consistent employment growth for older workers since the mid-1990s, the pandemic had meant employment among workers aged 50 to 69 dropped by 1.4 per cent.
This was nearly double the drop seen among those aged 25 to 49, where the employment rate fell just 0.7 per cent.
In addition to this, more than one million workers over the age of 50 are still on furlough and, with the scheme coming to a close in September, experts are worried that more redundancies are on the horizon.
Struggling businesses are being instructed to contribute 10 per cent of their employees’ wage from July 1st under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, with another increase in August to 20 per cent. The stuttering restart to the economy due to virus variants could mean that older workers may unfortunately face more unemployment in the coming weeks and months.
The Full Employment Complaint Figures
Source: Rest Less (via Ministry of Justice)
What is age discrimination?
Age discrimination occurs when an employer treats an employee or potential employee differently due to their age. The Equality Act 2010 says that you must not be discriminated against because you are (or are not) a certain age or in a certain age group.
The Equality Act covers the following types of age discrimination:
- Direct discrimination – Where a decision is made directly because of someone’s age, or perceived age.
- Indirect discrimination – Where an employer applies a provision, criterion or practice which applies equally to all ages, but results in a disadvantage to people of a certain age or age group.
- Harassment – Where a person carries out unwanted conduct related to age, which has the purpose or effect of violating their dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile environment.
- Victimisation – Where a person treats an employee less favorably after they have made a complaint of age discrimination. An employee should not be disciplined or dismissed for complaining, for example.
How can employers avoid age discrimination?
1. Discrimination and diversity training
Training that specifically centres around discrimination and ageism can help employees and management understand the benefits of age diversity, while also opening their eyes to the repercussions of discrimination in the workplace.
2. Have policies in place, and enforce them
Your policy should include definitions of age discrimination with clear examples. It should also include reporting procedures and grievance information. Your policy should stress that your business will not tolerate unfair treatment based on age, and senior management and the human resource department must enforce the policy.
3. Ensure you have no biases in your recruitment
Employers should not allow any bias or stereotypes regarding age to influence their assessment or decision-making at any stage of the recruitment process. Employers need to be careful when writing an advertisement, avoiding a reference to any particular age group. Do not ask discriminatory questions in the interview.
4. Be fair in the redundancy process
Redundancy decisions should be based on factors such as skill, work performance and abilities, not on age. Employers should avoid asking older employees to opt for redundancy and/or retirement to help reduce the company’s headcount.
5. Reward based on performance, not age
Opportunities for promotion, job-related training or other development opportunities should be available to all employees, regardless of age. Do not base rewards or preferential treatment on the age or tenure of the employee, but on performance.
How can Percy Hughes & Roberts help?
Whether you are an employee who feels they have been discriminated against due to their age, or you are an employer who wants more information on how to avoid age discrimination, Percy Hughes & Roberts can help.
At Percy Hughes & Roberts, our Head of Employment, Sarah Simcott, boasts years of experience and promises a confidential, friendly, and honest approach to all issues within the employment law field, particularly discrimination issues.
If you have any questions regarding age discrimination within the workplace, you can get in touch with us for expert advice. Get in touch with our Wirral Employment Law Lawyer today by calling 0151 666 9090 or by completing the “Get in touch” form on this site.