New Data Suggests Age Discrimination Is Rife In The UK

4 minutes reading time

Despite people living and working for longer than ever before, new data reveals that age discrimination is worryingly prevalent in the UK.

New analysis from Rest Less, drawing on data from the Office for National Statistics, shows that people aged 50 – 64 are 33% more likely to remain unemployed for two years or more. The impact of the figures is heightened by the knowledge that the state pension age is steadily increasing: it will hit 66 next year and 67 between 2026 and 2028.

These rises in the state pension age will follow a recent increase in the female retirement age from 60 to 65 (to match the retirement age for men). This is currently the subject of a legal challenge by women born in the 1950s, who claim that the rise is a form of age and sex discrimination and has unfairly left them with an extra six years’ wait to get their pensions.

The statistics highlight that one in five unemployed people are aged over 50. There is also a gender gap present, in that 38% of men who are unemployed for more than two years are aged over 50, compared to 35% amongst women in the same category.

The figures suggest that the over-50s face significant barriers and obstacles in the workplace. This age group are shown as more likely to be made redundant, to receive less workplace training and suffer long-term unemployment than younger age groups.

Employers must be wary of how they threat older employees and job applicants, as individuals can make a claim of age discrimination to an employment tribunal in a wide range of circumstances.

What is age discrimination?

Age discrimination is when someone is treated unfairly at work because of age. It is unlawful, other than in very limited circumstances. Age is one of nine special characteristics protected from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. Others include sex, race, pregnancy and maternity, and disability.

Age discrimination is one of the most common forms of discriminatory treatment. It can surface in a number of areas such as recruitment, training and promotions, performance management, and retirement.

If an individual brings a successful claim of discrimination against their employer, they could be entitled to uncapped compensation in respect of their financial losses and additional compensation for any emotional damage inflicted.

As the statistics indicate, job loss can be long-lasting for older workers and age discrimination claims can, therefore, be very costly for employers. Individuals who allege that they have lost their jobs because of discrimination often bring claims for compensation in respect of several years’ worth of lost employment or, in the most serious cases, for “career loss”. “Career loss” is where the individual believes that they will never work again and they demand compensation for the salary and benefits they would have received had they remained in employment until retirement.


Unemployment among economically active people by age

Age Group No. of economically active* (millions) % Unemployed for 24 months or more (may-July 2019) No. Unemployed for 24 months or more (000s)
All 34.07 0.50 171
16-24 4.27 0.51 22
25-49 18.96 0.45 86
Under 50s 23.23 0.47 108
50-64 9.52 0.62 59

*(those in work plus those seeking and available to work)

If you have any questions about age discrimination in the workplace, please do not hesitate to contact our expert employment team on 0161 941 4000 or by email.