Is ageism the most common form of discrimination?

While there is a great deal of focus on ensuring equality in the workplace, one of the more forgotten areas appears to be that of age. According to a recent survey, there are claims that 3 in 10 promotion processes are unfair due to age. However, with businesses and HR departments focussing on the current gender issue that the new gender pay gap reporting will bring, are they are losing focus on other areas of discrimination?


Age discrimination is not just about not offering employment or promotion opportunities to staff who may be perceived as ‘too old’ to be able to carry out the role, it also happens at the younger end of the scale too. For example, by not offering a suitable candidate a promotion because they ‘look too young to be taken seriously’, or taking the decision to employ a candidate under the age of 25 so they don’t have to be paid the national living wage.


Sometimes there can be a fine line between ‘banter’ and discrimination. The old tradition of birthday cards celebrating staff being ‘over the hill’, or nicknames relating to perceived age can on occasions be seen as discriminatory. This is seen in the case of Dove v Brown and Newith Ltd, where it was found that a younger member of staff calling a 50+ year old colleague ‘Gramps’ on an ongoing basis could (and did) cause detriment.


There are certain occasions where Positive Discrimination may be allowed. I.e. in a recent case (Harrod & Others v Chief Constable of West Midlands Police & Others) whereby a tribunal found that it was not discriminatory to use compulsory retirement schemes to reduce officer numbers and therefore reduce expenditure. However, these cases are very few and far between and it is always wise to seek advice on any issues that could potentially be discriminatory.


Discrimination law can be a minefield and with no time limit on making a claim, it can be a risk to businesses who do not have correct procedure and processes in place. If you have any questions about how any of this could impact on your business, do not hesitate to contact the team here at First Call HR who are more than happy to help.