Age discrimination takes place when someone is discriminated against, victimised or harassed on the basis of their age group. An age group can be as specific as an individual or a more limited age group (e.g. ’27 year-olds’ or ‘people in their mid-forties’) or a wider group within a certain limit (e.g. ‘the over-30s’ or ‘Senior Citizens’). It is possible to be discriminated against on the grounds of ‘youth’ or being ‘elderly’.
There are four categories of age discrimination:
- Direct discrimination: Direct discrimination is less favourable treatment because of age. For example, an employer may offer training to a young employee, but refuses to allow another employee doing the same job to undertake the training because he or she is too old. Another example might be where an employer promotes another employee because he or she is younger.
- Indirect age discrimination: Indirect age discrimination is often less obvious. It can occur when an employer applies a policy, practice or procedure to all workers which particularly disadvantages a group of workers who are the same age or in the same age group. For example, an employer may require a qualification (e.g. an MBA or Masters degree) to be held for the employee to be eligible for promotion. Although this requirement applies equally to all employees, it may disadvantage younger employees who are less likely to hold the qualification.
- Harassment related to age: Harassment can occur when unwanted conduct related to age has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity or creating an intimidating, humiliating, hostile or offensive environment. For example, telling ageist jokes at work which colleagues find offensive could constitute unlawful harassment. Other examples include using nick names or making comments related to the natural signs of ageing such as hair loss. Exclusion from a work social event because someone is ‘too old’ to join in may also constitute harassment. An employee can claim harassment even when the conduct (the joke, comment, action, etc) is not directed at them.
- Victimisation: Victimisation occurs when someone is subjected to a detriment because they have made a complaint or raised a grievance about discrimination (or they intend to) or because they are assisting someone else who has complained about discrimination for example by giving evidence in proceedings (or they intend to). Examples of victimisation include dismissing, passing over for promotion or not giving a bonus to an employee because that employee has submitted a complaint about age discrimination.
If you are concerned that you are being discriminated against but are not sure which type of category your treatment falls into, you should seek urgent professional advice.
Compensation for discrimination is uncapped, meaning the Tribunal can award a substantial amount. The compensation can take into account financial losses and ‘injury to feelings’, intended to compensate the victim for the stress and anxiety suffered as a result of the employer’s unlawful acts of age discrimination. The amount of an award may be increased if the employer has acted in a particularly malicious manner.