October 22, 2018
At the date of the interview the job applicant was 67 years old. He had years of relevant experience for the role and had been shortlisted from 13 applicants. However, at the interview one of the interviewers on the panel said “I’ve just noticed how old you are” and then proceeded to ask him about his health. Despite being one of the strongest candidates for the position, the applicant was not offered the job. The Tribunal held that the applicant’s age was a factor in him being turned down for the job and it did affect the overall decision, which amounted to age discrimination and was unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.
This case emphasises the risks employers face if they treat a job applicant less favourably because of their age without objective justification – as age is one of the nine “protected characteristics” under the Equality Act.
Employers should be aware of the following in order to avoid age discrimination claims in recruitment and employment:
1. Do not use age as a criterion in your recruitment process: for example, when advertising for a position, don’t set a preferred age range for the role or ask for attributes such as “youthful energy”;
2. Questions at the job interview should focus on the applicant’s skills and abilities as opposed to their age;
3. During employment, do not give preferential treatment such as personal development or training opportunities to someone on the grounds of their age, unless it can be objectively justified;
4. Do not make it compulsory for an employee to retire once they reach a certain age; compulsory retirement ages are illegal unless they are objectively justified, such as by specific health and safety requirements; and
5. Ensure that pay scales and other benefits are linked to skills and experience as opposed to age.
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