Age discrimination is when a person is treated differently because of their age in a situation that is covered by the Equality Act 2010. It states that you can’t be discriminated against if you are or are not in a certain age group; a person thinks you are or are not in a specific age group; or lastly, that you are connected to someone of a specific age.
Terms such as “young person” or “youthful” or “under 18s” can be evidence of age discrimination to indicate age group as can words and phrases that are specific to other ages.
Discrimination could be a one-off action or a policy based on age. It doesn’t have to have the intention to be unlawful. There are multiple types of age discrimination, but usually four main types are outlined.
There is direct discrimination which is when someone treats a person worse than someone else in a similar situation due to their age. An example being if your employer refused to allow you to do a training course because they believe you are too old but allows younger colleagues to participate.
Then there is indirect discrimination which happens when there is a policy that applies to everyone but it puts a person or a certain age group at a disadvantage. An example would be your employer has a policy that only workers with postgraduate qualifications can be promoted but hires 21 and 22 year-olds which would be less likely to have that qualification due to their age. Or if your doctor allows installments on their payments if they are employed. This could indirectly discriminate against older people who are more likely to be retired.
There is also harassment that can be due to age-discrimination. This could make a person feel humiliated or degraded such as participating in a training session at work where the trainer continues to comment on how slow a person is due to their older age.
Lastly, there is victimisation which is when a person is treated poorly due to a complaint of age discrimination or if someone is supporting someone who has made the complaint. An example would be if a colleague complains of being called “decrepit” at work. You can help them make the complaint and then your manager treats you and them poorly at work.
Employees at both end of the spectrum, elderly and youthful employees, can experience age discrimination in the workplace and it can be difficult to determine if an employer’s actions were motivated by age discriminatoin, so one must learn as much as they can about it and how the law is designed to protect all ages in the workplace. It is important to remember that an employer must demonstrate that age is a reasonable question essential to the operation of their business for them to hire on age or fire on age.