Tribunal claims for ageism at work soar since Covid lockdown | Discrimination at work

Tribunal claims for ageism at work soar since Covid lockdown | Discrimination at work

The number of age discrimination claims taken to employment tribunals has increased dramatically in England and Wales since Covid lockdown, according to analysis of Ministry of Justice data.

Claims increased by 74% over the last year, with a 176% rise between October and December 2020 compared with the same period the year before.

The steep increase comes against a backdrop of falling numbers of other jurisdictional claims, with the total number of complaints in employment tribunals over the past year decreasing.

“We know that the pandemic has exacerbated age discrimination in both the workplace and the recruitment process,” said Stuart Lewis, the founder of Rest Less, a jobs site for older people that commissioned the research. “We also know that once made redundant, older workers are more likely to drift into long-term unemployment than their younger counterparts.

“These factors, combined with the need for many to keep working until they are 66, are leading to a increase in the number of employment tribunal cases based on age discrimination – and it’s likely to get worse.

“Age is a legally protected characteristic, just like gender, ethnicity, religion and disability, but age discrimination is still widely seen as a socially acceptable form of prejudice. It needs to stop.”

Unemployment levels among workers in their 50s and 60s have soared by 48% over the last year, and redundancies among the over-50s hit an all-time high in 2020.

More than 1 million workers over the age of 50 are still on furlough, raising fears that a new wave of redundancies may be on the horizon for this age group.

Patrick Thomson, a senior programme manager at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “As the labour market adapts to the unwinding of furlough, reopening of some businesses and closing of others, many older workers are being caught in the middle. Employment tribunals are often the last course of action for people facing discrimination or unfair treatment in the workplace, and it is worrying to see so many older workers needing to pursue them.

“We know that age is often the last unspoken and accepted form of discrimination in the workplace. Our recent research with employers finds that while many said diversity and inclusion were important to them, few had strategies or approaches to make their workplaces age inclusive. We know a third of people in their 50s and 60s feel their age disadvantages them in applying for jobs, higher than any other age group.”

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