Age discrimination has been very much in the news over the last month with the BBC under fire following their replacement of Strictly Come Dancing’s veteran judge Arlene Phillips with the much younger Aleesha Dixon.
Earlier this week Joanna Lumley and Anne Robinson also joined the ageism debate with Anne Robinson reportedly saying “all television is sexist and ageist"
Outside of show-business, there is less acceptance of ageism: as awareness of age discrimination legislation increases, so too have claims to the Employment Tribunal. Between 2006/7 and 2007/8, claims to the Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal more than tripled from 972 to 2,949.
The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 came into force in October 2006 and made direct and indirect age discrimination illegal in an employment context, unless the treatment can be objectively justified. Direct age discrimination is the only form of discrimination which is possible to justify. The legislation applies to discrimination against all ages, not just older workers.
As well as covering the recruitment process, the Regulations are also intended to protect workers from harassment, unfair dismissal and to ensure there are equal opportunities for promotion or training.
The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 also make provisions for a default retirement age of 65.
Some working practices are so entrenched, it can be difficult for employers to recognise that they may be at risk of discriminating on the grounds of age. Typical (and still commonly seen) working practices which could give rise to a claim of age discrimination include:
- Offering medicals only to the over 50’s;
- Advertising for someone to join a “young, dynamic team” or a “recent graduate”;
- Advertising for someone with more than 5 years’ experience or a specific qualification, unless it is a requirement of the job;
- Requesting an individual’s age during an interview rather than as part of your equal opportunity monitoring or after they start work;
- Believing that younger people do not have the competence for management and overlooking them for promotion.
If you are not sure whether a policy, advertisement or benefit may be discriminatory, it is advisable to take legal advice.
Employers are also reminded that employees do not have to have worked for a specified period before they are entitled to bring a claim for discrimination.
Katie Sinclair is an Associate Solicitor in Burnetts’ employment law team. To find out more about age discrimination issues, contact Katie on 01228 552222.
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Published: Thursday 24th September 2009