Why Durham businesses need to be vigilant against age discrimination

An 88-year-old NHS secretary has become the oldest ever person to win an age discrimination case.
With no default retirement age in the UK and more of the population working into their later years, the risk of Durham businesses facing an age discrimination case is on the rise.

Alison Schreiber from The HR Dept Durham explores the issue.

Age discrimination is not just relevant to older staff: younger workers can be discriminated against too. Discrimination could happen at any time, but there are some occasions when it’s more likely. These include during recruitment, when making training and promotion decisions, managing performance and at retirement.

It’s vital not to make age-based assumptions which distort decisions. This often leads to poor outcomes all round: such as hiring the wrong people, demotivating existing employees who see through the prejudice and, of course, discrimination tribunal claims.

It’s about mindset and practical measures: don’t let age come into your assessment of staff or candidates. Try forming teams with people of different age groups who are working to common goals – this brings people together. Facilitate different age groups exchanging skills, knowledge and ideas. It could be a real benefit to your business.

The Equality Act does allow for some lawful exceptions to age discrimination. The different age-based pay rates prescribed by the National Minimum and Living Wages; and when there’s legal necessity for age to be a factor (known as an occupational requirement) being just two examples.

An age discrimination tribunal claim could be brought by someone who doesn’t even work for you – based on a job which specified a number of years’ experience. Or as a result of some so-called ‘banter’ from a colleague. Or because of some shoddy treatment around a forced retirement. It’s worth reading up on and seeking professional advice if you think you may have an issue.