Ageism in the workplace

One third of UK employees say that they’ve witnessed ageism in the workplace. It takes many forms. Many of use would like to think that ageism in the workplacewe’re sensitive to others and wouldn’t wish to cause offence. Some others don’t seem to have that filter!
Take language used. Least likely to cause offence are the terms “older” and “experienced”. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that terms like

  • “sensei”
  • “cougar”
  • “grandma or grandpa”
  • “wet behind the ears”
  • “young whippersnapper” and
  • “fogey”

are more likely to cause offence. In 2012 a young worker won an age discrimination claim after showing that her line manager had referred to her as a “kid”, and even described her as a “stroppy teenager”.

88 year old employee

Recently an 88 year old medical secretary became the oldest person in the UK to win a claim for ageism in the workplace Because the case has only just been decided we still don’t know how much the case will settle for – we won’t know that until October 2019. You can no longer require people to retire at 65. It’s increasingly likely that employers will have a workforce with older workers who choose to continue to work well into their seventies and eighties.

Old and young?

Of course, ageism in the workplace applies equally to younger and older employees but it’s an issue that employers need to be alert to. In 2014 two young sisters won a tribunal claim for direct age discrimination after being criticised in an aggressive and unfair way. The tribunal found that they were “not treated with the respect they deserved as employees” and the employer did not treat an older employee in the same way.

Simple ways to reduce the risk of a claim for age discrimination

  • Don’t suggest, assume or try to force an employee to retire
  • Look for the type of experience you are looking for, not the number of years’ experience that you require when recruiting
  • Don’t make assumptions about an employee’s ambitions based on their age when considering promotion or training opportunities
  • Treat employees consistently, no matter what their age
  • Train your managers to be aware of the high-risk situations areas to ensure that they are not discriminatory
  • Raise awareness in your organisation about unconscious bias and how that can impact on decisions made

If you think you maybe looking at ageism in the workplace and want to know more how to train your staff, then please call us on 01706 565332 or email
Metis HR is a professional HR Consultancy based in the North West of England supporting clients across the country. We specialise in providing outsourced HR services to small and medium-sized businesses. Call us now on 01706 565332 to discuss how we may help you.

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