Editor's message: With the rise of the state pension age, an increasing number of older workers are choosing to remain in work for longer, resulting in an ageing workforce.
Dismissals based on an employee's age, for example compulsory retirement, can amount to direct age discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.
Unlike any other type of direct discrimination, direct age discrimination is unique because it can be justified if it serves a legitimate business need that cannot adequately be met in some other, less discriminatory, way. However, in the context of retirement, the reality is that you will be able to justify compulsory retirement at a particular age only in exceptional circumstances, for example for health and safety reasons.
You may worry that having conversations with older workers about their plans for retirement could amount to direct age discrimination. While using these conversations to pressurise an older worker into retiring is likely to amount to direct discrimination, having an open discussion with an older worker about his or her plans is unlikely to be discriminatory.
Younger workers are also at risk of age discrimination, particularly in the context of recruitment. For example, a requirement for job applicants to have at least four years’ experience may amount to indirect age discrimination against younger applicants. You should word job adverts carefully and focus on the skills required, rather than a person’s experience, unless a particular level of experience is justified.
Fiona Cuming, employment law editor
An 88-year-old secretary is suing the NHS for age discrimination after she was dismissed from her post at the Royal Berkshire Hospital.
In Matier v Spring & Airbrake Ireland Ltd, a Northern Ireland industrial tribunal awarded £3,155 for age discrimination to a jobseeker who was told that a prospective employer was "looking for a younger person".
In James v Coedffranc Community Council, an employment tribunal upheld an unsuccessful job applicant's age discrimination claim after an interviewer said "I've just noticed how old you are" and jotted down older candidates' ages on interview notes.
Updated to reflect the average compensation awarded for age discrimination in 2017/18.
A table listing the age discrimination awards made by employment tribunals in 2017/18.
Almost half of workers believe their age would hold them back when applying for a job - and nearly one in seven think they have been turned down for work due to their age.
The Office for Tax Simplification (OTS) has suggested gig economy firms should deduct tax from the earnings of self-employed workers in a system similar to PAYE.
Organisations in the UK are ignoring issues caused by the growing number of older workers, the results of a new poll have revealed, as MPs launch a report finding that age discrimination legislation is not being enforced.
A Labour MP is urging the government to end the exclusion of under 25s from the national living wage after it was revealed younger workers are paid a third less than their older colleagues.
Updated to include information on Saad v Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust, in which the EAT set out the correct approach to determining "bad faith" in victimisation claims.
HR and legal information and guidance relating to age discrimination.