Age discrimination, apart from in very limited circumstances, is unlawful. There are various types of age discrimination (for example: direct, indirect, harassment etc) and it can occur at different stages of employment (for example, during recruitment interviews, training redundancy and so on).
It can be a complex and problematic area for employers and employees alike. In fact, in many instances, employers unintentionally discriminate because they are unfamiliar with the law.
Here are some key considerations and common myths debunked:
- Can an ageist remark be discriminatory even if that was not the intention?
o Yes! Regardless of the employer’s intention, ageist remarks are likely to be discriminatory whether or not they are meant to be insulting. It is the effect the comment has on an employee which matters.
- Can I be discriminated against because of my perceived age or the age of my partner?
o Yes! Age discrimination can occur not just because of employee’s (actual) age, the age the employee is thought to be, or the age of someone the employee is linked with, for example, a partner or family member.
- I am over 50 years old. Is my employer discriminating against me by asking about my future work plans? I feel that my employer are trying to force me out.
o An employer can ask an employee, regardless of their age, what their short, medium, long term plans are. But these questions must be applied across the board and not specifically direct at people of a particular age group.
- I have recently began taking my state pension and my employer tells me I have to naturally retire.
o This is may be seen as discrimination from the employer. An employee should not be pressured into retiring as there is no longer a retirement age by law. It does not make a difference whether they are taking their state pension.
- My boss told me that as I am nearing retirement age, I will therefore not receive the same training as my younger colleagues, is this age discrimination?
o To assume there is more value in training younger staff when compared to training older staff is discriminatory. It is important that employers have consistent policies and practices which does not put an older employee at a disadvantage.