New research highlights that, over the last year, age discrimination claims made to employment tribunals have risen by three-quarters. 

According to new research from Rest Less, a digital community for people aged over 50, the number of age discrimination claims has increased by 74 per cent in the last 12 months.

Analysing data released by the Ministry of Justice, Rest Less found that the number of age discrimination receipts rose to 3,668 in 2020, up from 2,112 the year prior.

This is despite the total number of jurisdictional complaints in employment tribunals seeing a decrease year-on-year, declining by 1.5 per cent to 180,430.

As such, age discrimination claims saw the highest increase year on year compared to all other jurisdictional complaints.

This rise has also coincided with a period where unemployment levels amongst the over 50s reached almost half a million (426,000) in the final three months of 2020 – a rise of almost half compared to the year preceding it.

In addition, this age bracket has also been hit hard by redundancies with over a quarter of a million people (284,685) losing their jobs.

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 per cent 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.

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, reiterated this sentiment:

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.

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.