Get Up To Speed on Age Discrimination

  • David Harris
  • Thursday, April 4th, 2019

ACAS recently issued a new guide on age discrimination alongside two helpful factsheets which include guidance on workplace circumstances in which age discrimination commonly arises, 10 myths relating to older employees, and occasions when different treatment because of age may be allowed.

As many will be aware, the Equality Act 2010 provides protection against unfair treatment because of someone’s actual age, or the age they are thought to be, or the age of someone they are associated with, as well as protection against harassment because of age. Unlike some other protected characteristics, however, the Equality Act allows for different treatment because of age in very limited circumstances.

The new ACAS guide “Age discrimination: key points for the workplace” contains a helpful definition of age discrimination, describes certain situations in which age discrimination might take place and explains some of the circumstances under which different treatment because of age may be allowed.

For those unfamiliar with this area of employment law, the ACAS Guide provides a helpful practical starting point.

The factsheet, “Age discrimination: obligations for employers”, to be read in conjunction with “Age discrimination: key points for the workplace”, offers 10 key considerations for employers, including the cautionary approach to be taken in respect of ageist remarks, whether or not they are intended to be insulting, the fact that age discrimination should be avoided in the recruitment process as well as during the course of employment, and the importance of avoiding age-based assumptions when it comes to an employee’s capability.

“Age discrimination: obligations for employers” also reminds the reader of the general absence of any statutory retirement age and advises against pressuring or bullying employees into retirement.

Significantly, the factsheet recognises that the law does allow “different treatment because of age in limited circumstances” but points out that these exceptions “can be complicated to put into practice correctly” and notes that an employer “would need to be fully informed about using an exception, able to prove there is a real and important requirement for using it and confident there was no other option”, hence the importance of obtaining good quality formal legal advice in such circumstances.

Additional helpful guidance is provided in the second factsheet “Age discrimination: top ten myths”, again intended to be read in conjunction with “Age discrimination: key points for the workplace” and “Age discrimination: obligations for employers”, which provides answers to many frequently asked questions. For example, a common myth is that an employee must retire once they start taking their State pension. The factsheet rightly confirms that the law no longer sets a retirement age, meaning that most employees can decide when they will stop working and whether or not they take or defer their State pension.

We are specialists in this area of employment law so if you have any questions about the issues raised above, why not get in touch and see how we can help?

You can access the ACAS information referred to above here: http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1841

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David Harris, Managing Partner & Founder
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