Ten years ago, the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 (later replaced by the Equality Act 2010 on 1 October 2010) was introduced, marking the beginning of greater legislative efforts to tackle the unfair treatment of UK employees of all ages.

There have been many landmark cases demonstrating that age discrimination is alive and kicking.  The discrimination of course applies as well in the recruitment stage and there is no limit on compensation. Companies need to be aware that they need to consider all applications from all candidates and be careful with the wording in the advertising.

In my experience, companies with a younger workforce, naturally attract younger candidates, however you have to ensure you recruit for skill and ability. I personally have not come across or worked for any company that has rejected a candidate because of their age, it has always been about skills, experience and culture fit. I think we need to challenge our mindset, in a lot of cases the ‘older’ worker does feel that they are too old to apply for different roles or to have a change in career ‘at their age’,  so perhaps here is the part of the challenge. We need to recognise the ageing workforce and that post-retirement employment is part of the future world of work and embrace this change for ourselves too. 

In my experience, in some industries – especially engineering and manufacturing – their ideal candidate would in most cases be a more mature employee, purely due to the skill set and experience that younger candidates simply would not have. Whereby in digital and start up industries there is a natural inclination to attract people at graduate level as they have these skills and latest thinking in these industries. I have previously recruited for a role in digital that I absolutely knew that no candidate over 30 would have the experience in, as the technology was so new. This of course was not put in the advert, however the advert naturally attracted the under-30 age group.

Personally I do not believe companies set out to discriminate based on age, employers want the right skills and subject to industry, these can be apprentice ‘grow you own skills to semi-retired engineers whose skills are highly sought after in the engineering space.

What a lot of companies forget is that the legislation protects people of all ages, not just the the older workforce. There is a case to ensure that the younger generation are not discriminated against because of their age and the fact they can be employed more cost-effectively.

The introduction of the National Living Wage last April for example, has brought the issue of age thresholds into sharp focus.

The fact that the level of increase in the minimum wage was banded for over and under-25s meant the potential existed for claims of age discrimination by those under the threshold.

However, employers are protected from this potential challenge by the statutory pay band system (which forms part of the Equality Act 2010), which states that the position is lawful as long as the remuneration awarded matches the amount specified for the appropriate band.

When it comes to considering the impact of Brexit on age discrimination, EU law has played a key role in UK courts’ interpretation and approach to the application of the concepts behind age discrimination legislation, although the UK legislation (in the form of the Equality Act 2010) stands in its own right.  

In summary, having an open mind when recruiting, remembering to recruit for skill and experience and not treating an employee less favourably because of their age whilst employed will keep you on the right track to avoid any age discrimination claims.

My HR Hub can help with all aspects of recruitment and selection, and will help you review and improve your processes. For more information see our Employer Branding and Recruitment page.

Written by Rebecca Bull – founder and owner of My HR Hub