28 February 2019

Age Discrimination in the Workplace: New ACAS Guidance

Over recent decades there has been a significant increase in the number of older workers, with research indicating that over 50s now make up nearly a third (31%) of the entire UK workforce. It is envisaged that this trend will continue as the state pension age rises. At the same time, there are fewer school leavers entering the employment market.

With this in mind, it is important that schools embrace a multi-generational workplace and take steps to ensure that their culture welcomes and protects individuals, regardless of their age.

To assist, ACAS has recently produced new guidance which focuses on preventing age discrimination at work. The guidance, which can be located here, covers the following areas:

• overview of age discrimination;
• key areas where age discrimination may happen;
• risks of stereotyping because of age;
• risks of using ageist language;
• when different treatment because of age may be justified; and
making a claim for age discrimination.

Legal protection

Age is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 meaning that it is unlawful to discriminate against anyone in the workplace because of their actual or assumed age.

Employees are protected from discrimination at all stages of employment including during recruitment process, with regard to their workplace terms and conditions and when it comes to a dismissal.

Age discrimination in employment can include, for example:

• advertising for an individual to join a ‘dynamic, young team’;
• not employing an individual based on their age (e.g. because they are reaching retirement);
• setting a compulsory retirement age and forcing someone to retire because of their age; or
• making choices around redundancy based on an employee’s age.

Top tips for preventing age discrimination within your school

Schools should:

• promote an age-positive recruitment process which does not discriminate against candidates of a particular age;
• regularly review their practices, policies and procedures to identify areas of age bias and address these accordingly;
• train staff to prevent age discrimination and ensure an age-inclusive workplace culture and line management;
• ensure equal opportunities for promotion, job-related training or other career development for all employees regardless of their age (unless there are objectively and legally justified reasons for setting age criteria);
• encourage flexible working arrangements that work for the employee as well as the school; and
• ensure appropriate support is available for those with health conditions, including workplace adjustments.

Why is it important?

Generally speaking, staff who feel valued and respected will work productively and make a valuable contribution to the workplace. There is, therefore, a significant incentive for schools to avoid treating employees less favourably on the basis of their age.

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About the Author
Hannah Wilding, Solicitor
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