Age discrimination is where you are treated unfairly because of your age or because you are part of a particular age group.

It is unlawful to discriminate against someone because of their age.  Under the Equality Act 2010 age is a protected characteristic.

Here are some tribunal cases from the last year where  age discrimination was cited:

  • Last year, a British teenager was sacked after just two shifts as a waitress. She won her unfair dismissal claim and was awarded £2,800. Expensive shifts! She was dismissed due to concerns about her age (14) in relation to H&S considerations.  She had declared her age upfront and it would appear that her employer was somewhat confused about the grounds for dismissal, seemingly acting on instinct rather than any clear information or decision making
  • In another case, an employee in their 60’s who was asked when they were thinking of retiring won their age discrimination claim. The Tribunal decided that a younger employee would simply not have been asked the same question.

  • Brian Fox worked for Jaguar Land Rover for 40 years from the age of 16. He had two heart operations and his lengthy absence from work was then followed by a request to work only day shifts. This request led to his dismissal that in turn led to an award by the Tribunal of £250K – including loss of earnings past and future given his proximity to retirement age.

As per my last article, dismissing staff and defending legal claims cannot be just about process and procedure, employee relations must also be considered. Someone aged 59 and with 40 years’ service is inevitably going to feel they have been brutally treated if dismissed after a long period of confidence-sapping sickness absence compared to someone aged perhaps 30 with 2 years’ service, dismissed because they have a bad attitude.

Learning Points

  • Don’t make judgements about what someone can or can’t be done just based on someone’s age
  • Encourage mangers to think through the human aspect. Treat staff with the respect and consideration you would want to receive.
  • Your needs, as an employer, to plan resourcing such as understanding who might leave or retire from the business do not trump your obligations not to ask questions that might be considered age discriminatory. You might find this unhelpful, but the law is clear on this.

If you need help with deciding how to dismiss staff in a legal and equitable manner, do get in touch.