New age discrimination guidance for employers has been published to help businesses tackle the root causes of discriminatory acts in the workplace.
In the 27-page document, ACAS provides best practice guidelines for the prevention of age discrimination in the workplace and highlights potential pitfalls in recruiting, training, performance management and dismissal in terms of the risks of age discrimination, emphasising that it isn’t only at the start and end of the employment cycle the risks may arise.
Despite an aging population, concerns remain that older workers are not being retained in the workplace, their skills are being underutilised and they continue to face discrimination on the basis of age.
Employers are being encouraged to review the latest guidance against current organisational practices, policies and procedures to ensure compliance across all stages of employment and to educate and inform employees as to their obligations.
What are the main employers’ obligations?
Age is a protected characteristic in discrimination law and employers have specific obligations to meet to protect employers from becoming victims of age-related discrimination and unfair treatment in the workplace.
This could include ageist remarks, age-based assumptions and stereotyping or pressuring employees into retiring.
Age discrimination may have wider reach than employers believe. Anyone of any age can bring an age discrimination claim, not just those at the older and younger ends of the spectrum.
In addition, it is not just employees who can bring action against an employer. Age discrimination claims can be made by job applicants relating to the recruitment stage. Employers should be aware that no employment service required to be able to bring a claim for age discrimination and compensation is unlimited.
Also of importance is that discrimination can be carried out by the employer itself, its employees or by an agent of the employer. Employers have to show they had taken all reasonable steps to prevent the conduct from taking place.
Differences in treatment on the basis of age may be permissible in limited circumstances, and advice should always be sought to ensure the employer has considered all alternative options and has clear reasons to take that course of action.
Best practice for employers
The new guidelines provide helpful direction and practical examples for employers on how to recognise what constitutes age discrimination and to take steps to prevent it from occurring.
Employers should look to ensure they are operating with a good anti–discrimination policy. This needs to be implemented effectively and consistently across the organisation.
Implementation will also require education through practical training of all personnel about age discrimination law and how to avoid falling foul.
Also ensure that policies are reviewed regularly and updated as required to remain compliant with changes in the law and ensure they are not directly or indirectly discriminatory in any way. This should be considered across the employment cycle, starting from the initial recruitment process.
Also check the wording of all recruitment advertisements and ensure the candidate selection criteria and interview questions are fair and focused on skills and abilities.