Recent reports suggest that age discrimination is now seen as a more widespread problem than sex discrimination in the workplace.
What is it about age discrimination that may mean it is not treated as seriously as, say Sex Discrimination or Race Discrimination? Is it because it is a relatively new ground of discrimination, or because it is not as widespread as other forms of discrimination, or that there are few who stereotype or are hostile towards others because of their age or perceived age?
As an Employment Lawyer specialising in advising employees, I see subtle but powerful cultural reasons why people may be resistant to complain of age discrimination, never mind filing tribunal claims. But this is likely to change due to legal, social and demographic development. And many employers are storing up problems, where they fail to grapple with end-of-career planning and progression since the default retirement age was abolished or where they don’t take age prejudice seriously.
There are powerful pressures on older workers who want to continue to work. Advancements in life expectancy, the importance of work life to those who have worked hard to achieve their status and role, the financial pressures of older children (who may require a bit of funding from the bank of mum and dad to get started in life), poorer pension provision and having second younger families, push and pull workers towards continuing to work to a much older age, than the previous generation. Many will want to consider Flexible Working, or second careers and promotion. This group may be the most exposed to Age Discrimination.
So how do you spot it? I set out below some red flags that may help you identify if you are experiencing age discrimination – if these appear relevant to you, speak to an Employment Solicitor.
1. The question of central importance is why were you treated in this way? Was it because of your age, perceived age or age group?
2. Ask yourself, have you been treated as an individual or as a member of an older group or age range?
3. Have you been asked in interview for a new job or promotion where do you see yourself in “X” years time?
4. Have questions been asked regarding your apparent age?
5. Have you received feedback regarding your performance which was vague, subjective or did it disclose stereotyping?
6. Have others of a similar age been refused promotion or that job?
7. Has someone else been advanced of a different age to you but with similar qualifications?
8. If concerns have been made about your performance, has your employer placed focus on such terms "drive" and "motivation" or "energy"?
9. Have you been dismissed, whereas other employees in similar circumstances to you and with similar skills and qualifications but of a different age have not?
10. Is there evidence to suggest your employer’s decision to dismiss or failure to extend your employment was motivated by a desire to terminate your employment, before you reached a certain age that would entitle you to a large financial benefit that the employer would want to avoid paying?
11. Has your employer attempted to change the terms of your Contract to remove a benefit payable to those over a certain age?
12. Are you being dismissed because your employer has its own mandatory retirement age?
13. Does your employer’s requirement for a specific qualification disadvantage you in some way, for example a requirement that a qualifications were obtained within a recent period?
14. Do you have caring responsibilities which you are unable to carry out due to requirements regarding your hours of work or a requirement to travel or be mobile?
15. Are there no obvious grounds for objectively justifying the treatment you have experienced?
If you think you are experiencing Age Discrimination, speak to an Employment Solicitor quickly. Getting advice in regards to your Age Discrimination Claim at the early stages can be vital in positioning yourself and making the right strategic choices.
By Employment Solicitor Ivor Adair.
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