Age discrimination: is it happening at work?

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Jason Mohammed: Let’s talk to Richard Thomas who is a lawyer at Capital Law in Cardiff. Hi Richard, Good Morning to you.

Richard Thomas: Good Morning.

JM: Thank you for joining us.  Does it surprise you when you read this report that people aged 50 and over are hiding their age to get that job?

RT: It doesn’t really. No. I think there is a certain amount of statistical evidence to show that candidates for jobs face a sort of bias, or perhaps unconscious bias, that some employers have, that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

I mean, it is unlawful obviously, to discriminate in the recruitment process. But, for candidates who are over fifty who make a job application, it is very difficult to demonstrate in a Court and in an Employment Tribunal that the reasons for being turned down for that job was specifically their age – and not that there was some other more suitable candidate.

JM: So, what would happen then if somebody believed that they were being discriminated against when it came to their age Richard? Would it eventually go to an Employment Tribunal?

RT: It could, yes, and I think there is a distinction to be drawn between those people who are already in work, that are employed.

So, if they were, for example, turned down for promotion, but they are already employed, they could raise a formal grievance with their employer and say look I think this is because of my age, and there is a lot of protection that they would then have under employment law. If the employer was then silly enough to dismiss them for raising the grievance, that would be an automatic unfair dismissal and probably discriminatory as well.

So, if you are in employment, you have these rights that you can bring to a tribunal.

If, however, you are applying from outside and just applying for a job, you would then have to persuade the Employment Tribunal that actually, I think the reason I was turned down was because of my age, and not for some other reason. Getting that evidence to demonstrate that you have been turned down because of your age, and not for some other reason, is difficult for a job applicant as opposed to an employee, who potentially has evidence of at least the reasons why they were turned down for promotion.

JM: I am pretty sure many people listening to the radio this morning, Richard, will be screaming at their radio, saying, well why would employers want the younger work force when we have got all that experience?

RT: Well, I think that’s a very good point, and I think employers need to start thinking about this in a lot more detail.

If you are an employer, and if, for example, you are writing off eighteen to thirties because they are too inexperienced, and you are writing off fifty plus people because, ‘oh well they are over the hill’, you are making these very obvious, general, stereotypical assumptions. You are then recruiting from a very small pool of people indeed.

When we leave the European Union, as well, if you then wanted to recruit for example from people from abroad, France, Germany, you’d have to go through quite a bureaucratic immigration process.

So, I think employers need to start thinking far more carefully about bringing people in, recruiting for attitude and then actually training people and putting aside money, resources, and assistance to train people on the job, because the ‘job for life’ has gone and, you know, ‘the career for life’ is probably gone now. So, people are going to need to retrain, reskill, and good employers should be there assisting people throughout that process.

JM: Richard, very good to talk to you.  Thank you very much indeed.  That is Richard Thomas at Capital Law in Cardiff.