Age discrimination claims increased sixfold during the pandemic

According to official statistics, between March 2020 and March 2021, 15,336 claims which included a complaint of age discrimination were received by Employment Tribunals. This marks an astounding sixfold increase on the number of age discrimination claims presented the previous year.

Whilst the reason behind this significant increase in age discrimination claims remains unclear, experts note that this increase coincides with the fact that workers over the age of 50 suffered the largest increase in unemployment of any age group during the pandemic. 

What is age discrimination?

Age discrimination occurs when you are treated unfairly because of your age. The Equality Act 2010 says that you must not be discriminated against because:

  • you are (or are not) a certain age or in a certain age group
  • someone thinks you are (or are not) a specific age or age group
  • you are connected to someone of a specific age or age group

What are the risks for employers?

In addition to potentially causing significant damage to an employer’s reputation, age discrimination claims can be extremely costly for employers. This is largely due to the fact compensation awarded by Employment Tribunals for age discrimination claims is uncapped. This means that employers can be liable to pay significant compensation sums to reflect an employee’s loss of career, injury to feelings, and personal injury.

What can you do to combat age discrimination in the workplace?

  1. Recruitment: Interviewers should be trained to make sure they understand what causes age discrimination and how to avoid it so they make recruitment decisions based on an objective criteria relevant to the job and personal merit.
  2. Diversity and Inclusion policy and training: These can encourage employees to treat others fairly and in some discrimination claims, employers may have a defence if they can show that they took all reasonable steps to prevent the discrimination occurring. 
  3. Training and development: Employees of all ages should be eligible for training and development programmes. Automatically excluding age groups, such as those nearing retirement, is not only potentially unfairly discriminatory, but also leads to a failure to make the best use of talent and can stop people from making better contributions and adding greater value to business performance.
  4. Promotion: Be conscious of, and remove, prejudice and stereotyping in connection with appraisal and performance management.
  5. Reward: Reward based on performance, not length of service.