Home / Work & Childcare Articles / Age discrimination at work

Age discrimination at work


Written by:

We deal with and challenge a lot of different forms of ‘isms’ in society: sexism, racism etc. One that we do not hear about quite as often is ageism, more commonly referred to as age discrimination.

The law around Age Discrimination

Included in The Equality Act, published in October 2012, it is against the law for an employer to treat an individual differently based on age. Yet, earlier this month, it was found that 4 in 5 people aged between 51 and 60 in the UK believe they have been victims of ageism. The study also found that most people over 51 remove their birth date from their CV entirely. On the other hand, young people are being continually overlooked by employers; the Equality Impact Assessment in 2011 found that 72% of surveyed employers said they have worries when hiring a younger person due to lack of experience. 65% said they are hesitant to employ younger people as more experienced candidates are available.

As the population in the UK increases, this is set to become even more of a problem. By 2023, it is thought that the majority of people in work will be aged over 40. It is suggested in various studies that the workplace of the future could be filled with up to five generations.


Ageism is currently most apparent when regarding younger employees who have recently reached working age and older people, let’s say 51 and over. There are stereotypes most associated with these two age groups. Are the young more enthusiastic, more desirable, and more capable in this day and age? Or is the older generation more experienced and knowledgeable? Neither. We are our abilities, our capability, and not our age. Examples of ageism are most commonly expressed as off handed comments: “you’re too young to understand…” or “I feel sorry for the old guy…” Age discrimination includes offensive, humiliating or distressing behaviour aimed at you because of your age.

So, how do we cope with Age Discrimination in the workplace?

Ageism can be very upsetting for the victim, making then feel obsolete, irrelevant, incapable and less valued then their co-workers. Here are some suggestions on how you can deal with it:

Talk about it

shutterstock_127406474Primarily, with the person or people who have made demeaning remarks. As ageism isn’t that focused upon as a problem, perhaps they think it is okay or maybe they didn’t mean it in a hurtful or sinister way. If they reasonable, they will surely apologise profusely for their hurtful comment(s) and you can continue to work together.

You can also discuss the problem with co-workers, family,or HR if it is really bothering you and/ or persistent. You could suggest your company or department holds a workshop that will create discussion and raise problems regarding ageism, hopefully helping to combat it.

Don’t be part of the problem

Don’t retaliate with more age discrimination. People of all ages can learn from each other; if it’s necessary, younger people can help to close the widening skill gap for example, regarding technology. Older people can share their experience and knowledge with the younger generation. Different ages in a workforce are a positive influence on each other, and everyone is deserving of respect.

Prove yourself

You are just as capable as your co-workers regardless of your age. If you can prove you are able, even if that requires asking for help, then no one will have reasonable cause to judge you by your age.

If the discrimination continues

If the ageism is persistent then it may be time to start collecting evidence. Once you have substantial proof, you can raise a grievance and perhaps even take the offender to court.

Dealing with age discrimination as a manager

It is part of your job to ensure your staff is comfortable and functions to the best of their ability. If ageism is occurring under your supervision, it is crucial to combat it.

Research and/ or get training to help you deal with age discrimination

There’s a lot of information out there regarding ageism, whether that be dealing with it on a personal level or the legal issues around it. The more you know about ageism, the more able you will be able to deal with, recognise and be aware it.

Inform and enforce

It is important that your employees are aware of the problems of ageism.  Hold workshops and develop a policy to deal with age discrimination. Ensure it is applicable, reasonable and be consistent. Make sure staff are aware there will be disciplinary action if ageist behaviour continues and collect evidence in the form of verbal and written warnings in case termination is necessary.



About Siobhan Harmer

About Siobhan Harmer

Siobhan Harmer is an English Freelance writer who drinks far too much coffee!!

Website: Siobhan Harmer

View all posts by