A G E D I S C R I M I N A T I O N: E X P L A I N E D
Age discrimination, also known as Ageism is discrimination or unfair treatment based on a person’s age.
Under the Equality Act 2010, employees are protected from age discrimination in all aspects of employment including recruitment, employment terms and conditions, promotions and transfers, training and dismissals.
S T E R E O T Y P I N G
Age-based discrimination is linked to negative beliefs and assumptions. For example:
Younger employees can be perceived as, less reliable, less conscientious and less capable. As a result, they can be overlooked for training opportunities, greater responsibilities, and promotions. Younger workers also tend to receive lower pay and benefits relative to similarly experienced older workers.
Although some assumptions made about older workers can be favourable in that they can be seen as more reliable or as having a stronger work ethic, it’s far more common for older workers to face negative stereotypes, including perceptions such as less adaptable, lack physical capabilities, have limited technological competence, and less trainable.
T H E I M P A C T O F S T E R E O T Y P I N G
The presence of negative age-related stereotypes does not only result in direct discrimination. It can also result in worker underperformance, even for employees who have previously performed strongly. This can occur through two routes - External and Internal.
This occurs when an older worker becomes so worried about conforming to a negative age-based stereotype that it impedes their ability to focus. This causes their performance to suffer and research says that the stereotype becomes self-fulling for the individual.
This occurs when the worker is consistently exposed to a stereotype and starts to internalise it. For example, if you grow up continuously hearing that older people are less competent, when you become older, you might believe that you are now less competent. Such internalised stereotypes create self-imposed constraints.
T H E E X C E P T I O N
While the Equality Act 2010 protects you from age discrimination at work or when applying for a job, there is an exception in the law which applies to age discrimination only.
An employer can make a decision based on someone’s age if they can show that it is objectively justified and proportionate. This should only be a defence in a limited number of circumstances and doesn’t mean that employers have ‘free rein’ to discriminate against older workers.
T H E E Q U A L I T Y A C T 2 0 1 0
The Equality Act protects people from direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation. Head over to our Equality Act 2010 Page for more information on these terms.
Here are some workplace examples of Age discrimination, Harassment and Victimisation.
Your employer refuses to allow you to do a training course because she thinks you are ‘too old’, but allows younger colleagues to do the training.
You are not eligable for promotion because your employer has a policy that only workers with 5 years experience can be promoted.
You complain to your manager for being called 'wrinkly' at work. Your manager thinks you are being silly and treats you badly as a result.
During a training session at work, the trainer keeps commenting how slow an older employee is at learning how to use a new software package because of their age.
C H A L L E N G I N G A G E I S M
These 5 Age-friendly communications principles are practical advice to support organisations in communicating about ageing and older age.