It might not be talked about as much, but age discrimination is a serious issue in the UK. If you understand your rights, you will be able to call out and resolve further ageism in your workplace.
Recognising ageism in the workplace
Despite age having little impact on employability, including there being the same broad expectations of work, age discrimination is still rife. In particular, management will often strongly consider the impact of a worker nearing retirement when discussing promotions, hiring or similar.
This is so common it is the most widely reported form of unfair discrimination in work in the UK.
All workers, including older workers, are covered by the Equality Act. Within this, the Act details situations that are known as age discrimination, otherwise known as ageism.
As such, an employer cannot make a decision that negatively impacts you or someone associated with you due to your age or perceived age. An example of ageism in the workplace includes being overlooked for learning opportunities or more challenging assignments.
If you feel like you might have experienced age discrimination in the workplace, there are a few things you can do:
- Follow your inhouse grievance procedure
These situations always end up best for everyone if yourself and the company can resolve them without the need for external mediation. As such, you should try your best to find a resolution via your company’s grievance procedure before making any further steps. Furthermore, taking all possible steps in house will help your case if it eventually goes to an external tribunal.
- Seek external help
The best organisation to speak to about this is Acas, who have a wealth of experience dealing with discrimination claims. Make sure you speak to a professional body like Acas before you make any decisions, as they can have certain ramifications.
Health and Safety
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 protects older workers in that employers have to implement all appropriate health and safety measures. Within this, the employer has a duty to identify whether particular employees are more at risk.
Health and Safety measures should and do apply to all employees, regardless of age. However, cognitive performance and reaction time can deteriorate over time. As such, some employers are concerned at older workers’ ability to operate in accordance with health and safety measures.
Despite this, the majority of over 50s report that they are as able as ever, and that it is actually their colleagues’ discriminatory attitudes that prevent them from carrying out their tasks.
Research demonstrates that essential cognitive elements do not usually deteriorate until after age 70. Furthermore, where some minor cognitive abilities can change, such as reaction time, experience and judgement often more than compensate for them.
This has led to older workers actually experiencing less workplace incidents than younger workers in the UK. However, these incidents are more likely to cause serious injuries.
As such, you should make sure to hold your employer to account if they are not following any appropriate health and safety measures.
What you can suggest
There are a number of ways for you to improve the health and safety standards in your workplace in a way that doesn’t discriminate against you due to your age. We have compiled a quick list of ideas; you can ask your employer to:
- Carry out a new risk assessment
- Invest in new technology if you are finding a certain task especially physically demanding.
- Open up opportunities for older workers to choose to move to new roles if they want to.
- Establish a mentoring program to pass on your health and safety knowledge to younger workers
- Involve you in health and safety considerations