The number of age discrimination complaints to employment tribunals increased by 74% in the last year, according to new research from Rest Less, the digital community for the over 50s.
Rest Less analysed Tribunal Statistics data from the Ministry of Justice and found that the number of receipts under the jurisdiction of age discrimination in employment tribunals reached 3,668 in 2020, up from 2,112 – or 74% – in 2019*.
Rest Less’s analysis shows that the total number of jurisdictional complaints in employment tribunals decreased year on year (from 183,207 in 2019 to 180,430 in 2020). Age discrimination saw the biggest year on year increase of all other specific jurisdictional complaints.
In a year when unemployment levels amongst the over 50s reached 426,000 in the final three months of 2020, up 48% year on year), with 284,685 redundancies amongst the over 50s in 2020 (up 79% year on year) and still more than 1 million over 50s on furlough, Rest Less predicts the number of age discrimination complaints to soar in the coming months.
Stuart Lewis, Founder of Rest Less, commented: “Workers in their 50s and 60s have had a challenging time in the labour market over the last year: unemployment levels soared by 48% year on year and redundancies amongst the over 50s hit an all time high in 2020*. Additionally, with more than 1 million workers over the age of 50 still on furlough, and business concerns around the potential for new virus variants to delay re-opening, we fear a new wave of redundancies may be on the horizon.
‘We know that the pandemic has exacerbated age discrimination in both the workplace and the recruitment process. We also know that once made redundant, older workers are more likely to drift into long-term unemployment than their younger counterparts, raising fears about the sustainability of the UK’s recovery if we don’t have a jobs plan that works for people of all ages.
‘These factors, combined with the need for many to keep working until they are 66 to access the safety net of the state pension, 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 yet age discrimination is still widely seen as a socially acceptable form of prejudice. Age discrimination is unfair, unacceptable and has long-term damaging consequences on both the individuals involved and wider society. It needs to stop.”
Patrick Thomson, Senior Programme Manager, Centre for Ageing Better, commented:
“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.
“In the toughest job market in recent memory this really matters. It has never been more important for employers to make sure they are genuinely recruiting the best person for the job, regardless of age – and retaining their experienced older workforce. De-biasing the recruitment process, creating an age-inclusive culture, and supporting flexible working are all crucial to doing so.”
Workers who believe they have been the victim of age discrimination – or any other form of discrimination – should contact ACAS (https://www.acas.org.uk/) in the first instance. ACAS offers employees and employers free, impartial advice on workplace rights, rules and best practice as well as a dispute resolution service.
Rest Less also has a guide for its members on what to do if they have been discriminated against at work which can be found here.
Notes to Editors
*Rest Less’s analysis is based on Quarterly Tribunal Statistics from the Ministry of Justice issued on 11 March 2021. There were 3,668 age discrimination Employment Tribunal claims between January and December 2020 compared with 2,112 in the same period in 2019
*Rest Less also uses redundancy and unemployment data from the Labour Force Survey issued on 18 May 2021.
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About Rest Less
Rest Less (restless.co.uk) launched in early 2019 and is a digital community for the over 50s designed to help its members get more out of life through employment opportunities, advice, volunteering, courses, health, money and lifestyle information. Rest Less has thousands of jobs available on its site from progressive age-friendly employers across the country and is the leading site in the UK for the over 50s to offer flexible opportunities to work, volunteer or even start a new career path.