Age discrimination occurs when an applicant or employee is treated unfairly because of their age. As an employer, you have a duty to create an inclusive workplace, free from discrimination.
Fail to do so and a legal claim may be made against you.
In this guide, we’ll explain what age discrimination is, examples of it in the workplace, and how to address it.
What is Age Discrimination in the Workplace?
Age discrimination in the workplace – also known as ageism – refers to being treated different because of your age in employment.refers to the practice of excluding applicants for employment or current employees because of their age. Although age discrimination most commonly occurs in the workplace amongst older employees, age discrimination can affect anyone.
Age discrimination is normally driven by stereotypes about older employees being slow, grumpy, and stubborn. Discriminating against employees because of their age isn’t just unfair, it can also negatively impact your workplace culture and lead to legal trouble.
Examples of Age Discrimination
Some examples of age discrimination in the workplace are:
- Refusing to employ older applicants because they are close to the age of retirement.
- Rejecting a promotion to a young worker because they look too young.
- Denying benefits to older employees.
In some circumstances, even comments made in the workplace about one’s age may constitute age discrimination. Some examples include:
- “We do not want to invest in someone who will retire so soon.”
- “We prefer to maintain our youthful culture.”
- “Perhaps you would benefit from working with people your own age.”
- “You don't need this training program. At your age, what would the benefit be?”
The Law Regarding Age Discrimination
Age discrimination in Canada is protected under human rights legislation.
Each province has their own established human rights legislation. For example, human rights protections for provincially regulated workplaces in Ontario are provided under the Ontario Human Rights Code. Other provinces include:
- Human Rights Code of British Columbia.
- Alberta Human Rights Act.
- The Human Rights Code of Manitoba.
- The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code.
- New Brunswick Human Rights Act.
- Nova Scotia Human Rights Act.
- Newfoundland & Labrador Human Rights Act.
The Canadian Human Rights Act provides human rights protection from discrimination for federally regulated employees. Some examples of federally regulated workplaces are inter-provincial transportation (eg. trucking companies, railways), television, and broadcast workplaces.
Age Discrimination in Hiring
Age discrimination is often prevalent in the hiring process and isn’t always obvious. To avoid inadvertently discriminating against candidates based on their age, you need to recognize different types of ageism during recruitment.
Sometimes, statements or requirements in a job description can inadvertently discriminate against candidates based on their age. For example, some companies may advertise that they’re looking for young workers. Other common words may include fresh, energetic, active.
These words may unfairly deter older candidates from applying. You may also be doing yourself a disservice by overlooking a larger pool of candidates who align closer to the role you are hiring for.
Screening candidates based on their age is very common and can often be subtle. You may be accidentally screening out older applicants who fit the role because:
- The applicant has a college diploma from over 15 years ago.
- The applicant lacks professional social media profiles.
- The applicant submitted a long resume.
You should always plan your interview questions ahead of meeting with a candidate. If you do ask improvised questions, it is important that you avoid asking anything that inadvertently discriminates against a candidate. Some questions to avoid may include:
- When do you expect to retire?
- Are you comfortable working for a younger manager?
- Can you keep up with our company’s technology demands?
- Where do you see yourself in five or 10 years?
- Do you have any chronic diseases or other health issues?
To combat ageism questions, avoid asking questions related to a person’s age, such as questions about their birth year or graduation date.
How to Address Age Discrimination in the Workplace
Employers should create an inclusive workplace, free from discrimination to build their workplace culture. It is important to keep age discrimination out of the workplace. Below are a few tips that you can implement to create a more age-inclusive workplace.
Establish Protective Policies
Employers should implement polices that prevent age discrimination, as well as other forms of discrimination. This type of policy should clearly define what age discrimination is and provide examples.
Once the policy is introduced, all employees, whether new or existing, should sign off on this policy.
Review Policies and Procedures
Age discrimination isn’t always obvious in the workplace. You should ensure that you review your recruitment practices, sick leave policies, and training guides to ensure that they are not discriminatory.
For example, if you are temporarily laying off or promoting employees, this decision should be made objectively and not based on an employee’s age.
Sometimes, employees will connect better with coworkers of a similar age. This can lead to some employees being excluded, especially older employees.
You should encourage employees to work with one another regardless of their age. Interacting with everyone within your business can help employees develop different skills based on their experiences.
To create a workplace free from age discrimination you need to remove the negative stereotypes often associated with older employees.
Older employees can bring more experience to the job. Employees with longer careers can help to mentors younger employees and teach them new skills.
By removing age-related stereotypes, you can improve employee retention and provide a positive public perception of your business.
Get Advice on Age Discrimination with BrightHR
It is essential for you to familiarize yourself with the laws regarding discrimination in the workplace.
Age discrimination can be difficult to spot in the workplace. But it’s important that you know what could happen if an employee or candidate feels they have been discriminated against because of their age.
If you need assistance with human rights issues or want to implement policies to prevent age discrimination, our BrightAdvice service allows you to receive quality advice on any employment issues you may have.
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