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FAQ: Combating Ageism at Work

By: Garry Crystal - Updated: 20 Apr 2012 | comments*Discuss
Ageism Age Discrimination Employees

Ageism at work is an increasing problem in the UK and ageism claims have more than tripled from 2007 onwards. Ageism at work is against the law and there can be severe consequences for those who discriminate on the basis of age.

What is the Law Regarding Ageism?

There are laws in place to protect employees against age discrimination. The law states that it is illegal to discriminate against employees under the age of 65 on the grounds of ageism. This means that employees cannot be sacked if they are either too young or too old if they are under 65 years of age. Employees do have the right to work past the age of 65 and this right can be asserted by requesting the intention to work to the employer.

What Are The Rules for Employers on Age Discrimination?

Employers do have the right to refuse a request to work from employees 65 years old and over. Once the employee is over 65 the employer can refuse the request to work and is not required to give a reason. Employers also have to provide at least six month’s notice of when they expect their employees to retire. When it comes to training, employers must treat all employees equally regardless of their age. Age discrimination when recruiting staff is outlawed in the UK.

How Big a Problem is Ageism in the Workplace?

A survey by the Employers Forum on Age (EFA) came to the conclusion that ageism is rife in the workplace. Of 1000 workers over the age of 16 surveyed, 61% had claimed they had witnessed ageism in the workplace. The amount of age discrimination claims in the UK jumped from 926 in 2006 to 2,940 in 2007. This jump in claims may be linked to the new age regulations that came into force in 2006. Research also shows that 83% of older people believe they have been refused employment on the grounds of age.

What Should Employees Do If They Are a Victim of Ageism?

Age discrimination should never be accepted in the workplace and if an employee believes that it has occurred they should assert their rights. Most employers will have an employee handbook that will detail the process if ageism does occur. This employee handbook should be available to all employees. The first course of action should be talking to the person who is actually harassing the employee in this manner. It may be a good idea to have a union representative present when this meeting occurs.

How Can I Collect Evidence if Proof of Discrimination is Required?

There are a number of ways to collect evidence including keeping a diary of when and where the age discrimination occurred. Examples of how the discrimination occurred and any witnesses should also be included. Collecting details from work colleagues who have faced a similar situation may also be helpful. Under the law, employees are also allowed to question employers, which may also help when it comes to gathering evidence.

Should I Raise a Formal Grievance over Age Discrimination?

Submitting a formal grievance can be one way of dealing with the issue of age discrimination. This can be the next step if talking to the person who is causing the harassment has not made a difference. A formal grievance can be used to investigate many employment disputes and can sometimes involve employment unions. All employers should have formal grievance procedures set in place that can be used by employees.

When Should I Consider an Employment Tribunal?

Employment tribunals are usually the last resort when dealing with cases of age discrimination. This will usually be considered if there has been no action taken with a formal grievance. It may be the case that filing a grievance is a prerequisite before the next step towards an employment tribunal. There is a time limit and taking the matter to an employment tribunal must occur within three months of the discrimination taking place.

How Will an Employment Tribunal Help?

An employment tribunal is where the matter will be investigated and the tribunal will decide on the rights of the aggrieved party. A tribunal can also decide if the employee is to be awarded compensation and how much this will be. Tribunals can also be used to make recommendations to the employer over setting the discrimination matter to rights. Anyone who is considering this course of action should seek advice from agencies such as the Citizens Advice Bureau.

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