Age Discrimination: Meaning and Types

Age discrimination in the workplace refers to the practice of unjustly considering a person's age when determining who gets a new job, a promotion, or other job perks. Employees' ages cannot be the only factor considered when deciding whether to fire them. The majority of the time, older workers who feel they have been treated unfairly in favour of younger workers are the victims of age discrimination, but there have also been instances where younger workers have been replaced by older workers.

What is the Meaning of Age Discrimination?

The act of treating someone differently, and typically less favourably, because of their age at work is known as "age discrimination." Although it is prohibited at all job levels in the majority of nations, recruiting practices typically target candidates under the age of 22 and above the age of 45.

When someone is treated differently or unfairly because of their age, it is referred to as "ageism" or "age discrimination." It also covers things like how people are portrayed in the media, which can influence how a particular age group is perceived by the general public. Age discrimination may take place as a result of an age-based policy or rule, or it may occur in isolation. so thank goodness the Equality Act exists to safeguard individuals from age discrimination.

It's important to remember that age discrimination is illegal, even when it's unintentional. Age discrimination has potentially wide-ranging impacts. These may have an effect on someone's chances for employment, financial situation, quality of life, and confidence. To ensure that no one experiences discrimination because of their age, ageism must always be fought.

Types of Age Discrimination

Although age discrimination can take many different forms, it is generally understood to occur when someone is "treated less favourably on the basis of age." Discrimination can be classified into four categories −

Direct Discrimination

Direct discrimination occurs when one or more individuals treat a person less favourably than others because of a protected trait, in this example, their age. Direct discrimination can also occur when someone only believes that the other person has a protected trait, such as when they believe the other person to be older than they actually are. Discrimination by perception is the term used for this. Finally, there is discrimination by association, which occurs when someone is subjected to discrimination because they are linked to someone who shares that characteristic. This is a form of direct discrimination.

An example of direct discrimination at work, as noted above, could be when an employer refuses to give a promotion to an older employee because of their age and the fact that they are getting close to retirement, for instance. Alternatively, it's possible that only younger employees get the chance to participate in training.

Indirect Discrimination

This occurs when a company has a general policy or arrangement for their clients or staff that disadvantages particular people. An employee in the HR department who is 20 years old, for instance, cannot seek a promotion because it calls for a master's degree. Yet, given their age, it is quite impossible that any 20-year-old could have obtained such credentials. Occasionally, if the employer or organisation has a legitimate reason, indirect discrimination is also acceptable (objective justification).


Harassment is a type of discrimination that occurs when someone intentionally offends, humiliates, or denigrates another person, in this case, because of their age. Taking a nurse's imitation of an elderly person walking as an example.


Victimisation occurs when someone is mistreated because they stood up for someone who was being prejudiced against or because they themselves have raised concerns about age discrimination. The Equality Act acknowledges that someone may require further protection if they report discrimination.

Example of Age Discrimination

Following are some of the major examples of age discrimination −

  • A boss who, due to an older employee's age, decides to make them redundant or force them to retire.

  • A restaurant manager refused to serve a couple and their two small children, stating that the establishment only served patrons over the age of 12, fearing that the children might disturb the other diners.

  • At a job interview, an applicant may be asked about their age; if the employer prefers a younger candidate, they will not be hired.

  • Teenagers are not permitted to move about the campground after 9 o'clock, according to a guideline for a caravan park.

  • A travel agency informs a group of young adults that their cruise reservations cannot be accepted because the majority of guests are pensioners and families.

The Burden of Proof: Avoiding the Inference of Age Discrimination in The Workplace

The onus of proving that age discrimination did not occur shifts to the employer if the claimant can provide evidence that suggests age discrimination in the workplace may have taken place. So, employees who file age discrimination claims will seek to use the actions taken by their company to bolster their case. The employer can be questioned to obtain pertinent information (including statistics). Even though this information might not be sufficient to establish age discrimination, it could be used to ask the tribunal to make an assumption about it. When an employer declines to inquire, discrimination may also be inferred. In the event that they are required to demonstrate that they did not engage in discrimination, employers must be able to explain their reasoning for each employment choice. Thus, it is crucial that decisions are made consistently, transparently, and thoroughly.


Age discrimination occurs in the workplace occasionally for both young and older workers. Stereotyping or discriminating against people or organizations based only on their age is known as "ageism." Generally speaking, employers are not permitted to hire, fire, promote, or determine an employee's salary solely based on their age.

It can be challenging to distinguish between an employer's actions being driven by age discrimination or a sincere perception that another person can do a certain job better. States have a comprehensive complaint and fact-finding processes to assist employees in identifying instances of age discrimination and in defending their rights.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What are the signs of age discrimination in the workplace?

Ans. The following are some typical indications of age discrimination at work: Only younger employees receive learning opportunities and training programs. For difficult activities or projects, older workers are frequently chosen over younger ones. Elderly employees are excluded from social gatherings.

Q2. Is age discrimination an ethical issue?

Ans. Age-based discrimination is distinct from other types of discrimination since it can harm any one of us. People are impacted when they are at their most vulnerable in their lives. It is an unfair behaviour that lacks empathy and compassion from an ethical standpoint.

Q3. Why is it important to reduce ageism?

Ans. Ageism is a condition that impacts how we perceive ourselves, others, and the world at large. It has severe negative effects on the health and well-being of older adults and places strong restrictions on the creation of effective policies and programs for both older and younger people.

Q4. What is the age stereotype?

Ans. Old-age stereotypes can be good, neutral, or negative. Negative age stereotypes refer to unpleasant attitudes about older people, and positive age stereotypes refer to favourable beliefs about older adults (such as being wise, kind, etc). (e.g., slow, cranky, etc.).

Updated on: 08-May-2023


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