Age Discrimination Examples UK: What Your Business Can Learn

Written by Nicola Wylie
Last updated March 27, 2024

We dive into some of the most common age discrimination examples UK and share advice for employers on what not to do.

36% of the UK workforce has suffered discrimination of some form in the workplace. And the most common form of workplace discrimination? You guessed it: age discrimination. A recent study showed that 5.7% of people reported experiencing age discrimination in the workplace. 

This figure tells us we must do more to create equal and inclusive career opportunities for all. As a UK employer, it’s your responsibility to protect your employees and provide them with a level playing field for career success. This guide examines direct age discrimination examples UK so you can learn how to avoid similar mistakes.

What Is Age Discrimination?

Age discrimination occurs when someone is treated less favourably in the workplace because of their age. It can happen to both younger and older job applicants and employees. Under the Equality Act 2010, age is just one of a group of nine protected characteristics. The other eight protected characteristics are:

  • disability;
  • gender reassignment;
  • marriage and civil partnership;
  • pregnancy and maternity;
  • race;
  • religion or belief;
  • sex;
  • sexual orientation.

Employers cannot make assumptions about a candidate’s skills or abilities based solely on any of these characteristics. Instead, they must focus on qualifications and experience. Treating a job applicant or staff member differently because of their age is considered unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.

Violating the Equality Act is a serious offence that can have significant financial and reputational consequences for employers.

Workplace Age Discrimination Examples UK

To give employers a better idea of how ageism in the workplace can come about, we’ve put together some common age discrimination examples in the UK with associated real-life case studies.

1. Lack of career development

Age discrimination in career development takes many forms. One common form is when employers prioritise younger employees for promotions, overlooking more experienced and qualified older staff in the process.

On the other hand, some employers will only offer promotions to more senior staff, neglecting the potential and fresh ideas younger employees bring to the table.

Employers need to find a balance that considers both experience and new perspectives. Otherwise, you run the risk of discriminating based on age.

Example case: Superdry

This was the case for the clothing brand Superdry. A 56-year-old knitwear designer claimed she was repeatedly rejected for promotion in favour of less experienced colleagues. She won her case and Superdry was ordered to pay her over £96,000.

Read the judgement here.

2. Rebranding roles

Rebranding roles is an all-too-common example of age discrimination in the workplace. It involves older employees in a company being told that their position is being phased out. Then, once the older employee leaves, the company hires a younger person in their place. 

The employer will simply change the job title but the new employee will essentially carry out the same tasks, typically for a much lower salary.

This tactic is a prime example of age discrimination in the workplace and is quite easily proven in the Employment Tribunal if the older employee decides to open a case.

Example case: J&M Industries in America

In a clear case of direct age discrimination, a 65-year-old employee was repeatedly asked “When are you going to retire?” and “Why aren’t you retiring?” by her employer. When the employee stated that she was not planning on retiring, the company said that they were going to eliminate her role due to “economic uncertainty”. Within a month, they had hired a new employee in his 30s to perform the same role.

Read the judgement here.

3. Stereotyping

Ageism and stereotyping go hand in hand. It means making unfair assumptions and judgments about people simply because of their age. These stereotypes can be limiting, leading to missed opportunities and unequal treatment in the workplace.

For example, assuming that an older member of staff is less technically capable than their younger counterparts.

Example case: London Legal and Imaging Solutions

In one such case, a member of staff, Mr Portelli, opened a claim for unfair dismissal against his employer. In a letter from the employer, they stated that Mr Portelli was finding it “difficult to keep up with the pace of change”.  The Employment Tribunal found that the language used could reasonably be inferred to be a stereotype based on age.

Read the judgement here.

Are you guilty of any of these age discrimination practices? If so, use this as an opportunity to learn from your mistakes and become a better, more inclusive employer.

Here’s what you can do.

How To Prevent Age Discrimination In Your Workplace

Preventing age discrimination in the workplace involves the creation of an equal and inclusive environment for all employees.

Follow these useful tips:

Provide training  

As an employer, it’s your responsibility to ensure that all of your employees are given the same opportunities for progression. With regular, ongoing training your staff be on a level playing field where everyone can develop relevant skills and gain qualifications.

Learn more about providing training programmes 👉 

Review current policies

Take the time to review your organisation’s current antidiscrimination and equal opportunity policies. You should do this with your company’s lawyer to ensure that all policies are up-to-date and in line with UK laws.

An equal opportunities policy helps employees feel confident that everyone is treated fairly. It’s also an opportunity to outline the type of behaviour that is expected, guidance about discrimination, and extra services in the workplace, such as staff support networks.

Connect with diverse talent

The best way to avoid age discrimination in the workplace is to connect with diverse talent. That’s where we come in. Here at Refreshing a Career, our objective is to connect employers like you with a talented pool of candidates, regardless of their age. 

By posting your available positions on our dedicated jobs board, you’ll gain access to over 10,000 diverse and highly qualified candidates.

Next Steps

So, what’s next? Well, we’ve seen some key age discrimination examples in UK businesses and the events that led to legal proceedings. Yes, violating the Equality Act 2010 is against the law and hurts your employees but it also holds your business back.

The most successful companies of today are the ones that create a fair and inclusive environment where everyone has the chance to reach their full potential. 

By prioritising training, reviewing policies to promote equal opportunities, and actively seeking diverse talent, you can build a stronger, more innovative workforce. Let’s create a future of work where experience and fresh perspectives come together for mutual success.

Are you ready to take action? 

Call 03458724501 or email to learn more about our bespoke packages.

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Last Updated: Wednesday March 13 2024
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