The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 came into force to comply with the European Equal Treatment Framework Directive. These regulations mean that age discrimination in employment is unlawful in the same way as discrimination on grounds of gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, or religion and beliefs.
When people talk about age discrimination, they’re usually referring to older people who feel they are being under-utilised and under-appreciated in relation to the mass of knowledge and experience they have. However, research from The Employers Forum on Age (EFA) reveals young people feel just as discriminated against. The EFA is an independent network of leading employers who recognise the need to attract and retain valuable employees – whatever their age. Its research found one in five adults aged under 20 (20 per cent) have been put off applying for a job because of their age – more than any other group (just seven per cent of 40-year-olds feel this way). Rachel Krys, Director of The EFA comments: ‘It is great that older people do not appear to feel their age is a barrier to work if they want it, but unfortunately our research has found that it’s now young people who are self-conscious about their age, leaving some feeling very excluded from the job market.’
In 2007, a 20-year-old woman, sacked by a private members’ club for being ‘too young’, won a landmark age discrimination case. The woman, a membership secretary, said she had been unfairly dismissed by managers after being told she was not old enough to deal with its members. A ruling by a London employment tribunal, thought to be the first of its kind relating to discrimination against younger people, ruled that the woman was unfairly dismissed and discriminated against because of her age.
Following the implementation of the 2006 regulations employers have been forced to review their graduate programmes but, as The EFA’s Rachel points out, the generation gap can also cause difficulties when it comes to hiring graduates: ‘We know that older people often feel threatened and offended by young people – and this represents a great challenge for employers: unless something is done to close this gap, it will get harder to recruit and retain young people, and differences or pressures between the generations are likely to get worse, not better, with the changing demographic profile in this country.’
Age discrimination continues to be a high-risk area for employers, but The EFA believe that things are improving and will continue to improve. Rachel comments: ‘Ensuring diversity across the board is now fundamental in today’s workplace, but most UK workplaces still have some way to go in terms of tackling ageist policies.’
If you believe you have been a victim of age discrimination the government advises you take one of the following steps:
1. You can contact the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas). It offers free, confidential and impartial advice on all employment rights issues. You can call the Acas helpline on 08457 47 47 47 from 8.00 am to 6.00 pm Monday to Friday.
2. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) can provide free and impartial advice. You can find your local CAB office in the phone book or online.
3. If you are a member of a trade union, you can get help, advice and support from them.
4. You can seek legal advice from a solicitor or advice agency on discrimination issues.