How can you Prove age Discrimination at work?

Deana Bates
Employment Law Solicitor

What is Age Discrimination?

Age discrimination is when you are treated unfairly or less favourably because of your age or due to your association with a particular age group. Age discrimination can affect those young and old at work, despite most people associating age discrimination with those of the older generation.


What Does the law say About Age Discrimination?

The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against somebody on the grounds of age and protects those who speak up and raise concerns about age discrimination from suffering a detriment.

There are four main forms of age discrimination:

Direct age Discrimination - This is where someone treats you less favourably than another person in a similar situation purely because of your age.

An example of this could be a situation whereby your employer does not invite you to sign up to a training session on social media and marketing because you are older and they believe that you wouldn’t understand how to use social media at your age, but invites colleagues who are younger than you to join.

Indirect age Discrimination – When an employer has a policy or procedure in place which applies to all employees but has more of a negative impact on one age group compared to another.  

For example, an employer expresses a requirement for a candidate to have a minimum number of years’ experience when advertising for a particular internal job role. The requirement for a specific number of years’ experience could place those of a younger generation at a disadvantage, in comparison with those who are older. There are circumstances in which an employer is justified in imposing such requirements but this is not always the case.  

Harassment - This involves subjecting somebody to unwanted conduct in the workplace which is intended to or has the effect of violating that person’s dignity or creating an environment which is hostile, intimidating, degrading, humiliating or offensive and is related to that person’s age.

Victimisation – This is where you suffer a detriment and are treated in a negative way because you have made a complaint about age discrimination or are supporting someone who has made such complaint.


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Although the Equality Act is there to protect employees, it recognises that in some circumstances, it is justifiable to treat a person of a particular age or age group differently. This means that in some situations indirect and direct age discrimination is permitted.   It says that it is ”designed to ensure that the law prohibits only harmful treatment that results in genuinely unfair discrimination because of age”.

An example of where age discrimination could be justified is a situation whereby a company recruiting for an actor to play a child, specifies that applicants must be aged between 7-8 years old. The reason for this requirement being that the role they are recruiting for is that of a child aged 8 years. In this situation it is likely to be justified that any applicant below age 7 or above age 8 would not be selected for the role.


How can you Prove it?

The person bringing the claim for age discrimination must show that they have been subjected to age discrimination.

Some practical examples of what could be useful evidence in proving age discrimination are:

    • A timeline of incidents, including dates, locations and details of any witnesses.
    • Details of the person you are comparing yourself to, where you believe that you have been treated less favourably because of your age (direct age discrimination).
    • Copies of the job advert or policy which you believe discriminates against you on the grounds of your age or the age group you are linked to.

The above points are examples of the type of information you should highlight when speaking to an employment solicitor, along with any other evidence relevant to your case.


What Initial Action Should I take?

The starting point would be to look at your employer’s policy on how to raise a concern about discrimination. This type of policy usually tells you who the nominated person is within the company to contact with your concerns.    

If your employer does not resolve the matter or fails to take you seriously and you are still unhappy, you should reach out and speak to an employment solicitor, for expert advice on bringing a claim to an employment tribunal.


What can I Expect?

If you are successful in bringing a claim for age discrimination against your employer at an employment tribunal, you may be awarded compensation for financial losses in addition to compensation for the distress caused by the discrimination, which is referred to as compensation for ‘injury to feelings’.

It isn’t always necessary to bring a claim to an employment tribunal to receive financial compensation from your employer. In some situations your employer may be willing to agree to pay you compensation and resolve the dispute as part of a contractual arrangement called a settlement agreement. Signing a settlement agreement usually means that you are accepting the sum of money stated in the written agreement and agree to waive your rights to bring a claim to an employment tribunal.

If your employer mentions a settlement agreement to you or you would like to explore approaching your employer to try and negotiate a settlement in this way, please reach out to our expert team of employment solicitors for advice.

You should also be aware that if you do want to bring a claim to an employment tribunal for age discrimination, there is a strict deadline of three months less one day from the date of the act of discrimination to submit your claim. Sometimes the discrimination is ongoing, in which case the time limit runs from the most recent act in the series of discriminatory acts. As the time limit is strict, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible.

Before you can bring a claim in an employment tribunal for age discrimination, you must have registered your complaint with Acas and completed their early conciliation process.

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