The Equality Act 2010, a cornerstone of UK employment law, serves as a comprehensive piece of legislation intended to promote equality and prohibit unfair treatment in the workplace and wider society.
Age discrimination is one of the primary areas this law covers, along with race, religion, sex, and several others.
Understanding age discrimination
Age discrimination, or ageism, involves treating someone unfavourably due to their age.
The Equality Act safeguards employees from age discrimination in various forms, including recruitment, employment terms and conditions, promotions and transfers, training, and even dismissal processes.
To put it simply, it is unlawful to discriminate against employees because they are (or are not) a certain age or age group.
Age discrimination has no place in the workplace, regardless of whether it is aimed at younger or older workers.
Types of age discrimination
The Equality Act recognises four primary types of age discrimination:
Direct discrimination happens when an employee or job applicant is treated less favourably because of their actual, perceived, or the age of someone they are associated with.
Indirect discrimination occurs when a company has a particular policy or way of working that applies to everyone but which puts people of a particular age group at a disadvantage.
Harassment is unwanted conduct related to age which has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual.
Victimisation refers to the ill-treatment of an employee because they’ve made a complaint about age discrimination, or they’re supporting a colleague who has done so.
Exceptions and objective justification
Like any legislation, the Equality Act includes certain exceptions. Employers can legally justify age discrimination if they can prove it’s a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.
For example, a graduate programme aimed at recruiting recent university leavers would disadvantage older people but could be justified on the grounds of training and developing future talent.
The role of employers
Employers should be proactive in preventing age discrimination, which includes offering regular training to employees, creating an inclusive work culture, and implementing clear policies and procedures.
The importance of addressing age discrimination cannot be underestimated; it fosters diversity, inclusivity and promotes a positive work environment for all.
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