Age discrimination claims surged by 74% last year following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s thought the figure is likely to keep rising.

The research was carried out by Rest Less, the digital community for the over-50s.

Rest Less analysed data from the Ministry of Justice and found that the number of age discrimination claims in employment tribunals reached 3,668 in 2020, up from 2,112 in 2019, an increase of 74%.

Unemployment levels amongst the over-50s reached 426,000 in the final three months of 2020, up 48% year on year.

There were 284,685 redundancies amongst the over 50s during the same period, up 79% year on year.

Rest Less predicts that the number of age discrimination complaints will soar in the coming months.

Stuart Lewis, Founder of Rest Less, said: “With more than 1 million workers over the age of 50 having been on furlough, and concerns around the potential for new virus variants to affect business, 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.

“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 an 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 yet age discrimination is still widely seen as a socially acceptable form of prejudice.”

Patrick Thomson, Senior Programme Manager, Centre for Ageing Better, said: “Employment tribunals are often the last course of action for
people facing discrimination or unfair treatment in the workplace.

“It is worrying to see so many older workers needing to pursue them.

“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.

“It has never been more important for employers to make sure they are de-biasing the recruitment process, creating an age-inclusive culture, and supporting flexible working are all crucial to doing so.”

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.