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The report is a contextual evaluation of the age oriented diversity problems prevalent in the workplace in the United Kingdom, and presents a strategic and policy oriented analysis of the existing workplace diversity situation, recommending policy methods to the situation, and eventually presenting an answer to the question:
“How does age discrimination at workplace influence upon the work environment and employment/growth opportunities in the United Kingdom. Also, what policy methods and best practices can the organizations adapt to overcome the issue?
Workplace Diversity and its Significance
With the workplaces becoming more diverse and culturally advanced, it is important for any organization to recognize its significance. People have different beliefs, personal needs and values. To manage the workplace effectively, an organization should respect diversity and understand that everyone is unique in their own ways. Even though a few of them are different, but they have many things in common. Considering diversity brings significant potential benefits such as improved problem solving and enhanced resourcefulness which in turn leads to more productive marketing and hence better product development.
CIPD defines managing diversity as valuing everyone as an individual- valuing people as employees, customers and clients.
Diversity in its basic terms means the difference prevailing in the society on the basis of race, gender, caste, religion, sexual orientation, culture, etc. In the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, C.L. Walck defines managing diversity in the workplace as “Negotiating interaction across culturally diverse groups, and contriving to get along in an environment characterized by cultural diversity”.
As the workplace is becoming increasingly diverse; the eventual pressure on the organizations has remarkably increased with regard to managing the various workplace diversity issues .To be competitive and socially responsible companies need to create inclusive and open workplace cultures in which each and every employee have a sense of belonging and feel needed which in turn increases employee contribution and commitment towards the company.
Age discrimination: An Overview
The demographic framework in the United Kingdom has shown noteworthy changes in the last 25 years. The concept of age discrimination came into the United Kingdom long ago, but the age discrimination laws were brought into force in 2006. Further, using statistics from 2002 to 2008, the working population aged 16-59 for women and 16-64 for men was just over 38.1 million and is expected to increase from 38.1 million and expected to increase from 38.1 million to 43.3 million. (Source: Statistics UK, n.d.) EHRC defined age discrimination is an unlawful discrimination when someone is harassed or victimized or treated unfavorably because of their age. (Refer Appendix A)
There are different categories of age discrimination, such as indirect, direct, harassment and victimization. (EHRC, n.d.)
When someone is treated less favourably as compared to other person and promoted (or any other appropriate situation) because they are of a particular age irrespective of their experience or ability.
When candidates for a job are asked by an employer that they have to meet a physical fitness test (that younger candidates can meet more easily) even though when job is taken into question these fitness standards are not required.
It is also a form of direct discrimination. When employees working in a general work culture tolerate other employees telling them ageist jokes, name calling or bullying, this counts as harassment on the grounds of age.
When an employee is treated unfairly like not receiving proper training as compared to their colleagues because of their age is a form of victimization.
Note: The elucidations given above for each type are one form of discrimination there are other forms too prevailing in the workplace.
It is essential for a company to comprehend the fact that any sort of discrimination in the workplace could prove to be unlawful and costly. With the increasing number of older employees in the workplace age discrimination charges have risen in recent years. Age discrimination has severe impact on the workplace. A recent poll conducted in the United Kingdom showed that a significant percentage of people representing different age groups strongly believe that there exist differences in promotion, pay grade and growth opportunities on the basis of age discrimination.
Age Discrimination: The Laws
In the present scenario, to be competitive it is important for any company to understand and value diversity. Considering diversity helps an organization to create an environment that is diversity oriented and have a workforce that is innovative and productive. In order to safeguard and protect the employees from being discriminated at work the UK government has taken protective measures and is ensuring equality in the workplace. Following are the two major age discriminatory laws elucidated below:
Age discrimination law 2006 (Source: Business Balls, 2006)
The guidelines guard employees and other workers (staff, partners, agency, etc.) from discrimination, any other unfair treatment (e.g. relating to training, recruitment, promotion, pay, retirement and pensions) or harassment on the basis of age. Age here refers to any age – not just older people but young people too are involved.
The guidelines apply to:
employers of all types and also, private and public sector vocational training providers
employer organisations and trade unions
managers of work-related pension schemes and trustees
Employees and workers themselves (e.g. liability for pay compensation covered in cases of harassment against someone).
The effects of the regulation mainly cover and affect to:
recruitment, interviewing and selection
training, pay and benefits
performance appraisals and promotion
work-related social activities
dismissal, retirement, redundancy and pensions
The awareness of the employees about their responsibilities within the regulations and also the general conduct of everyone in work.
Equality Act 2010 (Source: Age UK, n.d.)
The equality act 2010 is the new law providing protection against age discrimination in training, adult education and employment for people of all ages. It has replaced the Employment Equality (Age) regulations 2006 by absorbing most of its position since October 2010.
If the disability is a requirement for the work applied for, it is illegal for employers to demand information on the disability and health of a disabled candidate for work.
It is illegal to include a term restricting or preventing an employee from seeking details of the pay of a colleague or former colleague, or from disclosing details about his/her pay.
If the person believes they have been, or are, discriminated against two protected characteristics, e.g. an older person with a disability then in this case under both heads the person can enforce protection of these two characteristics. It will soon be announced by the government, this has not yet come into force.
It recommends changes to protect the remaining workforce where an employer has lost a discrimination claim.
It now provides protection for two sub-categories of discrimination: perceptive discrimination and associative discrimination.
The government has announced that employees will no longer be forced to retire at the age of 65; the default retirement age of 65 will be abolished in October 2011.
Equality Act covers
Members of occupational pension funds
Contract and agency workers
Job applicants and Office Holders (company directors, etc.)
Former students in further, higher or adult education‚ or training
People applying for further, higher or adult education‚ or training
Students in further, higher or adult education‚ or training
In other areas:
People using career guidance services and applying for a professional qualification.
Members of professional associations or trade unions.
Volunteers are not protected from age discrimination.
If office holders are unpaid and are government appointed (e.g. magistrates) they will be protected.
If work is unpaid and undertaken as a part of a training course it will be covered.
Age Discriminations: Cases
In order to reduce the discriminatory practices in the workplace the UK government has taken protective measures (the laws mentioned above) to safeguard the employees from being discriminated. Mentioned below are the cases that have proved to be a landmark against the discriminatory practice on the basis of age in the workplace.
Achim Beck, an investment banker (Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce) sued a 42 year old employee and asks him to leave the job because the company wanted a younger person to do this job; he was replaced by a 38-year-old. His age played a part and after an employment tribunal ruled he had been unfairly dismissed. (Source: Telegraph UK, 2011)
A 20 year old girl name Megan Thomas working as a membership secretary at London club was awarded £1000 tribunal. It was found by the tribunal that she was dismissed on the grounds of age. (Source: Business times online UK, 2008)
A BBC 53-year-old ex- country file Miriam O’Reilly has won an employment tribunal on the grounds of age discrimination. (Source: BBC UK, 2011)
Terence McCoy from Newtownards, a County Down man has won tribunal for the first ever case of age discrimination in Northern Ireland brought under legislation. (Source: BBC UK, 2008)
A 19-year-old woman awarded more than £16,000 in compensation after winning a ground-breaking case against her former employer on the grounds of age discrimination. (Source: Business times online UK, 2008)
An 18-year-old girl Leanne Wilkinson working as an administrative assistant at Springwell Engineering in Newcastle was sacked from her job and told that she is too young to do this. She filed the case against age discrimination and the tribunal worked in her favour. (Source: Business times online UK, 2008)
Age Discrimination: Data and facts
A survey of just 2,000 people, custom-built by business information provider Croner, found that 11% of responded that they believe they had been discriminated against because of their age. There was an increment by 15% in between the period 2006-2007 due to recent rise in employment tribunals. (Source: Personnel Today, 2008)
The numbers of age discrimination claims were expected to rise to 200 in 2007 and the claims were more than 200. (Source: Personnel Today, 2008)
(Refer Appendix B.2)
Age Discrimination: Retirement
A default retirement age of 65 years was included in the legislation when age discrimination legislation was introduced in 2006. To check whether the employee wants to retire or not an employer must write to an employee sometime between six and twelve months before the employee’s 65th birthday. The employer must meet the employee to discuss the request if the employee wants to work beyond 65. The employer can reject the request. If the employer does reject, the employee can petition against the decision.
In addition, the default retirement age was challenged by an organisation called Heyday when the legislation was introduced. This challenge was discussed to the European Court of Justice which governed that member states can set a default retirement age.
The Coalition Government dedicated to reviewing the default retirement age and declared proposals to remove it. From 6 April 2011 employers using the default retirement age process will not be able to issue any notices for compulsory retirement. Between 6 April 2011 and 1 October 2011 only those and whose retirement age is before 1 October will be able to be compulsorily retired and also who were notified of their retirement prior to 6 April. It will be possible if the organisations are objectively justifiable that why they demand for a specific retirement age. (Source: CIPD, 2011)
Policy Measures and Recommendations
With companies becoming more diverse, it is essential for them to comprehend the fact that any kind of discrimination in the workplace is unlawful. In addition, it is crucial for an employee to demonstrate an appropriate business reason in order to file a case against discrimination on the basis of age. The anti-age discrimination law covers a wide range of workplace situations and applies to certain circumstances only which were elucidated above. There are number of ways a company could be age positive, few of them are listed below:
Judge people on ability, not age
For few things age doesn’t matter. If the work could be done both by a young or an old worker or vice versa then the company shouldn’t discriminate on these basis. It is important that the companies understand what is more important? Required skills and abilities or age. Same applies to the recruitment process.
Promote staff on merit
The staff should be promoted only on the basis of the work they did and the contribution they have done as an employee to the company. It should solely be done on the basis of skills. If a person is capable and has done something noteworthy for the company’s benefits, then it is against the regulations to regulate the promotion on the basis of age.
Make redundancies with caution
Often companies make employees redundant on the basis of age; they should keep in mind while doing redundancies they are not losing someone valuable, which could be considered as a significant loss of skills, knowledge and can even damage customer relations. A company should do redundancies on the basis of requirement of business not on the basis of age.
Beware when advertising
When advertising a company should be aware about that they are not quoting anything that is discriminating in the advertisements. Usage of phrases like ‘candidates should be aged 25-35 or mature, this phrase indirectly states that the company doesn’t want old people to apply. For instance: Green and Co, a transport company, adverts saying “We welcome applications from everyone irrespective of age but, as we are under-represented by people under 40, would especially welcome applications from these jobseekers. Appointment will be on merit alone”
Training old people
On the grounds of age employers cannot discriminate that who is allowed to take training or not. The employers should look after the fact that turnover is exceptionally low among the old people which could prove beneficial for the company because they save on conducting recruitment from time and then. If the company wants that their long term staff should stay updated then it should invest on training and development.
No Tolerance Policy
A progressively widespread strategy measure incorporated in the corporate culture by several companies at present is the No Tolerance Policy, whereby an employee is dismissed on an issue of discrimination over the first offence (Associated Content, n.d.)
Job application and interviewing
A company shouldn’t ask age or any kind of age related questions like date of birth, etc. In the job application form or while interviewing. Include age related queries in the diversity monitoring form retained by the HR personnel. Any kind of age related questions is form of discrimination. The companies should avoid it. Interview the candidates only on the basis of the competence and skills each of them portrait. Retain the selected candidate’s records for minimum of 12 months, in order to stay on the safe side. (Refer Appendix B.1)
It is essential for a company to comprehend the fact that any sort of discrimination in the workplace is unlawful and costly. It is the key role of an employer to manage the workplace diversity. Considering diversity helps an organization to create an environment that is diversity oriented and have a workforce that is innovative and productive. In order to safeguard and protect the employees from being discriminated at work the UK government has taken protective measures and is ensuring equality in the workplace and have incorporated a equality act law in 2010 to safeguard and protect the employees.
If companies work towards an age positive future than any kind of discrimination will not be entertained in the UK, and also it proves to be socially responsible. Taking a few measures like no redundancies for older people, training facilities for older people, etc. could prove to be lucrative and beneficial. Employment based on age criterion is not legal. The anti-age discrimination law covers a wide range of workplace situations and applies to certain circumstances only which were elucidated in the laws above.
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