ACAS has published guidance (available here) on age discrimination.
The guidance includes how age discrimination can happen in the workplace, how to prevent it, and how different treatment because of age can be allowed in very limited circumstances.
The guidance explains situations where employers are at risk of ageism and how to avoid discriminating against applicants as a result of their age. These situations include, for example, during the recruitment process, promotions, performance management and at retirement.
The guidance points out that age discrimination could lead to:
- poor decision-making when recruiting and promoting or deciding who gets trained;
- the demotivation of existing staff who become aware of the stereotyping;
- less trust among colleagues; and
- discrimination claims.
The guidance also outlines instances where different treatment because of age can or may be lawful. These include:
- where the need for certain types of discrimination because of age can be lawfully proved by the employer;
- the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage;
- pay and any extra benefits and perks linked to certain periods of time with the employer;
- where being a particular age or within a particular age range, or not a particular age, is a legal requirement of the job. This is likely in only very limited circumstances. In law, this is known as an ‘occupational requirement’; and
- some circumstances in redundancy. For example, deciding to keep staff who have been with the employer for longer, and making redundant staff with less time with the firm. This could be allowed if the employer can prove a lawful business reason in the circumstances—for example, keeping the most experienced staff who are fully trained and skilled as they are essential to the future of the restructured company.