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Avoid age discrimination in the work place - read our important top tips now

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Age may be just a number, but for some employees it does not feel that way. The Equality Act 2010 has made it unlawful to discriminate, harass or victimise an employee because of their age, make sure you and your employees know where to draw the line.

In Roberts v Cash Zone (Camberley Ltd) Ms Roberts was 18 years old. She was a weekend employee at Cash Zone who was promoted to Store Supervisor. She had little experience of the role and her line manager regularly referred to her as ‘a stroppy kid’ or ‘stroppy little teenager’. Ms Roberts was eventually dismissed and issued an age related harassment and age discrimination claim relating to her dismissal. The Employment Tribunal agreed that her employer’s language constituted harassment on the grounds of age. Although the terms ‘kid’ and ‘teenager’ were factually accurate, the Employment Tribunal held that the words were used in a derogatory and stereotypical fashion. However they rejected her claim for age discrimination.

On the opposite end of the scale there is the case of Nolan v CD Bramall Dealership Ltd. Mr Nolan’s line manager subjected him to age related banter and pranks. The Employment Tribunal heard that the line manger changed the registration plate of Mr Nolan’s car from ‘OAB’ to ‘OAP’ and referred to him as ‘Yoda’ from Star Wars. When the employer carried out a resource review they closed Mr Nolan’s office and made him redundant. Mr Nolan issued a claim for unfair dismissal and age discrimination. The Tribunal upheld his claim and agreed that Mr Nolan had been selected for redundancy because of his age and his line manager’s language was discriminatory.

Both of these cases highlight the problems young and old workers can face. You must strive to avoid language and behaviour that could be construed as discrimination. Although age related banter may be regarded as acceptable by one employee, another employee may find it offensive. Senior members of staff must be especially careful when speaking to employees of any age. You can quickly create a discriminatory work environment if employees begin to copy their line manager and banter can quickly get out hand.

If you are concerned with age discrimination or an employee has brought a claim against you then contact a member of our Employment Team.