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How can I prevent age discrimination in the workplace?

How can I prevent age discrimination in the workplace?

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Government predictions say by 2020 there will be round 25 million people over the age of 50 in the UK. That fact, plus the scrapping of the DRA means our attitude to employing and retaining older staff within our workplace needs a radical overhaul.

Age discrimination is, of course, illegal in Great Britain. But, more than regulatory demands, fairness at work and tackling discrimination helps to attract, motivate and retain multi-generational staff, as well as enhancing your reputation as an employer.

So, as an employer, what you need to do both to meet your legal obligations and create a fair workplace? Here’s our checklist to making sure you are age-discrimination-free.

Understand the issue
First, consider all aspects of how you employ people to ensure freedom from potential direct or indirect age discrimination. Examine your recruitment policy, your employment terms and conditions, promotions and transfers, training, redundancy and dismissals. Also, review policies and procedures to identify areas of age bias, such as sick leave, annual leave and flexible working. Now, carefully assess your staff across the board, from directors to managers to the shop floor, for any indications of age-related harassment, bullying or victimisation.

Have a policy
The policy should include definitions of age discrimination, with examples, as well as reporting procedures and grievance procedures. For example, if a manager sees unacceptable behaviour, they must take an immediate defined (by you) course of action to deal with it. In the first instance, this may involve taking the person who has been discriminated against aside and assessing the situation from their perspective.

If they do not want to take formal action at this time, this may involve an informal warning  to the perpetrator, pointing out the effect of their behaviour and requesting they desist. If this fails, or if the person being harassed prefers, it will be necessary to take formal action within your organisation’s normal disciplinary procedures. Above all, make sure your policy expresses your commitment to a supportive work environment for employees of all ages. Organisations such as ACAS have 30 years experience in helping committed employers create effective policies and strategies to make part of these important strategies.

Make sure your leaders are on-board
Ensure your directors and managers are not only familiar with the law and your company's new policy, but that they are also as committed as you to upholding it.

Make your organisation’s position clear
Prominently communicate your age discrimination policy by announcing it at an all-staff meeting, as well as posting it in detail on bulletin boards or the intranet. Incorporate it in your employee handbook.

Train to prevent it
If you have no in-house expertise on the subject, hire a specialist to carry out training to raise employee awareness. Require participation for all employees. The training should aim for real changes in understanding and behaviour and cover such areas as, not only what ‘discrimination’ and ‘harassment’ mean but also why they are hurtful, unlawful and totally  unacceptable. Ensure staff are in no doubt about what to do if they either witness it or are subjected to it. Emphasise and encourage individual responsibility.

Rethink promotion and training
Opportunities for promotion, job-related training or other development opportunities should be available to all employees regardless of age. (Except if you have objectively and legally justified reasons for age criteria). Ensure your style and location of training is suitable for people of all ages and that everyone eligible is encourages to participate.

Encourage mentoring
Companies which embrace mentoring are generally warm and inclusive places to work. Pair workers of different ages. Workers of any age can pass on their experience – upwards and downwards – and help others develop through their unique knowledge and skills.