Joe Biden’s decision to run again shines a light on age discrimination
Joe Biden recently announced his intention to seek a second term as president of the United States. If successful, he would be 82 at the start of his next term. He is already the oldest president in US history.
President Biden has received criticism by opposition politicians with the Republicans dubbing him “sleepy Joe” in reference to his age.
With President Biden’s decision attracting attention for his age, rather than political successes, this is a good time to review the state of play regarding age discrimination in the UK.
In a study conducted by the charity Age UK 36% of respondents who were over 50 years old felt they had been disadvantaged at work due to their age.
With such figures, it is important to comment on types of age discrimination claims, what they might cost employers, and therefore how best to avoid them. It is worth considering the protection under the Equality Act 2010, and the types of claims that can be made.
Equality Act 2010
Age is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 and, as a result, an employee is protected against discrimination because of their age. There are four main types of age discrimination:
- Direct discrimination (where someone is treated less favourably than others because of their age)
- Indirect discrimination (where a provision, criterion or practice puts someone at a disadvantage because of their age without objective justification)
- Harassment(unwanted conduct relating to age that creates an unwelcome work environment or has the effect of violating a person’s dignity)
- Victimisation (where an employee suffers a detriment as a result of raising/supporting a complaint on discrimination)
It should also be remembered that generally, the most obvious forms of age discrimination will affect older people, the protection applies in relation to inequality of treatment with regard to any age.
Accordingly, the possibility of discrimination against younger generations bears equal relevance.
There are circumstances when age discrimination can be lawful, but these exceptions are fact-dependent and have to be carefully considered.
The cost of discrimination
What happens if you are found to be unlawfully discriminating against an employee due to their age? Awards for discrimination claims are uncapped, this means that Employment Tribunals can award full compensation for the loss suffered. The average award given by an Employment Tribunal in the last quarter for age discrimination was £18,623, with the largest award being £60,914.
Given the potential financial and reputational damage in a finding of age discrimination, it is essential that employers put in place appropriate protection. As with other aspects of discrimination, a key aspect of such protection is to put in place appropriate policies and training, ensuring that they are communicated effectively to all employees.
For tailored advice on how to avoid age discrimination, or any other employment-related matter that could affect your business, our team of specialist employment lawyers can assist.
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