Age Discrimination at work – How to promote anti discriminatory practice

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Editorial Team

Age discrimination in the workplace is quite a common issue that affects individuals across various industries and backgrounds. As society becomes increasingly aware of the importance of diversity and inclusion, addressing age-related biases has become crucial for fostering a fair and productive work environment. What are the different types of age discrimination, ways employers can avoid discrimination against employees, and the exceptions to anti discrimination practices.

What are the types of age discrimination?

There are a few types of behaviours that may relate to age discrimination, and without the knowledge of how to qualify some situations, an employer may fall into the trap of discrimination without even knowing about it. 

First type is direct discrimination which occurs when an employee is treated less favourably due to their age. This could occur in decisions related to hiring, promotion, training opportunities, or even dismissals. The employer is aware that decisions seem to be influenced by the age of the employee, who may not be perceived as a priority for further investment in professional development. 

Employees may also experience indirect discrimination, which happens when neutral practices affect individuals of a certain age group not in a proportional way. THe implementation of policies which may have disadvantages for older workers, such as mandatory retirement ages, can be seen as indirect discrimination. 

It is necessary to focus on harassment induced by age, including inappropriate behaviour, comments, or actions that create a hostile work environment. The examples may involve jokes, remarks, or practices that exclude employees at a certain age can be all related to harassment. 

The last practice to point to is victimisation of an employee for raising concerns or filling complaints about age discrimination. The occurrence of victimisation aims at discouraging the person from speaking up and in consequence it may lead to the continuation of discrimination in the workplace.

Promoting anti-discriminatory practices

The first step to start with is the implementation of policies that promote inclusivity and diversity. It’s necessary to create a culture that values employees of all ages and to decide that decisions regarding hiring, promotions, and training are based on merit, not age. 

Employers are obliged to offer equal opportunities for professional development, training, and mentorship, not related to age. It is related to the certainty that all employees get a fair chance to develop their skills and contribute to the organisation’s success. 

The fight against age discrimination may require employers to introduce flexible work arrangements, taking into consideration that employees at different life stages may have varying needs. This may include options for part-time work, job sharing, or a home office. 

Conducting regular training sessions on diversity, inclusion, and anti-discrimination policies can help raise awareness among employees. This ensures that everyone in the organisation understands the importance of treating colleagues with respect, regardless of age.

Exceptions to anti-discrimination practices

It may be found challenging for employers to justify correctly what may be qualified as age discrimination and what may be categorised as exceptions to anti-discrimination practices. It’s recommended to consult an employment solicitor with knowledge and expertise to help judge certain cases. The certainty that the practices are fair may save employers from serious legal actions raised by discriminated employees. 

The laws and regulations vary across jurisdictions, but there are some general exceptions to anti-age discrimination rules. 

Bona Fide Occupational Qualifications (BFOQ) concerns situations when the employer is obliged to prove that a certain age is necessary for the job. Also, seniority systems that reward employees based on their length of service are also an exception. 

Voluntary retirement plans that meet certain criteria may be exempt from age discrimination laws. However, it’s crucial that participation in such plans is voluntary, and employees are not forced into early retirement. It also concerns state retirement systems. Sometimes there are also other reasonable reasons for giving an age requirement to the job position, but they must be justified.