Legal insight: Age discrimination and harassment

What is age discrimination? It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a worker because of her age unless the job requires a person of a particular age. For example:

  • Stereotyping someone because of age, such as assuming older workers are not able to deal with new technology.
  • Appointing a young person to a job because the employer believes that customers or clients would prefer a young person.
  • Making a woman redundant because she is coming up to the company's retirement age.
  • Not offering an older worker training or promotion opportunities because she is likely to retire soon.
  • Assuming young workers do not have the skills or qualifications required to do a particular job.
The law protects job applicants as well as workers. So if you think you were turned down for a job because of your age, and can prove it, this would be age discrimination.
 
Can age discrimination be justified by the employer? Yes, an employer can defend an age discrimination claim where the age related treatment is justifiable and proportionate. For example it may be justifiable to recruit some young presenters for a teenage TV show.
 
What is harassment related to age? Harassment related to age occurs when someone engages in unwanted conduct related to a worker’s age which violates their dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. It does not matter if the person intended to do so, it is simply enough that they have violated a worker’s dignity or caused a hostile environment.
 
Legal insight’ is provided by Leigh Day & Co solicitors, specialists in employment discrimination. They can be contacted on 0845 099 5586 or by email: wen@leighday.co.uk.  You can also contact The Law Society on 0870 606 2555 for a list of employment solicitors.