Can Young People Experience Ageism at Work?

Written by Luke Kitchen
Last updated April 17, 2023

When we think of ageism at work, we often immediately think of older people and how they are affected. While this is, of course, hugely important, it is not the only side involved in ageism at work. 

Young people can experience ageism in many walks of life, with work and employment being one of the most common. Many young people experience discrimination related to their age when they are applying for jobs and when they are employees later down the line. 

Young people’s experiences of ageism at work are valid and important to acknowledge. All discrimination is hurtful and harmful, and we should all do as much as we can to prevent and stop it. 

In this blog, we are going to discuss how ageism against young people can manifest at work and what to do if this does happen to you. 


The Definition of Ageism 

Ageism is a form of discrimination under the Equality Act of 2010. Age is a protected characteristic under the Act, which means people are specifically protected from being discriminated against in work or recruitment due to their age. Other protected characteristics include race, sex, religion, pregnancy, and so on.

The definition of ageism does not specifically reference the age of the person involved. While many people might think that ageism only refers to discrimination against older workers, this isn’t the case. An occasion of discrimination counts as ageism if it is related to the age of the person involved. 

Young people can, therefore, equally be the victims of ageism as older people can. If they experience any of the four types of discrimination (direct, indirect, harassment, victimisation) due to their age, then they are experiencing ageism.

Let’s look more at how this ageism might manifest itself in the workplace. 


Examples of Ageism at Work

Some examples of young people experiencing age-based discrimination in the workplace include the following…


  • A young person attends a job interview for a role they are highly qualified for. They have relevant experience and demonstrate related skills. However, in the interview, they are told that their “younger look” might mean clients won’t take them seriously and so they do not get offered the position. An older person who is less qualified for the job instead receives the offer. 


  • Despite working in a company for the same number of years as their colleague, a young person loses out on a promotion role due to their so-called “lesser maturity”. They exhibit high job performance and have received excellent reviews so far, whereas the older worker who receives the promotion is less skilled. 


  • A young person consistently receives inappropriate comments about their age and “young body” in the workplace from older colleagues. They are made to feel uncomfortable at work and there are even inappropriate emails sent to them throughout the workday. 


  • The youngest worker in an office is always told to stay behind later than their colleagues so they can finish the work while the others head to a local bar for a “meeting”. They are consistently excluded from social events as they are “too young” to socialise with the others in the group. 


  • Two new hires join a workplace at the same time, one is 21 and one is 46. Despite having the same background, experience, and qualifications, and entering the exact same job role, the younger colleague is given menial tasks and expected to perform housekeeping duties outside of their job role, whereas the older worker is given mentoring and pushed towards promotion right from the beginning. 


Overall, what we can see from these examples is that younger people can be excluded and discriminated against in the workplace in a way that hurts them and keeps them behind in their careers. Simply because of their age. When this happens, this is illegal age discrimination under the Equality Act


What to Do When This Happens

If you are the target of ageism at work, it is never a pleasant experience. In fact, it can be very damaging to your health and well-being. It may also make you want to quit your job and put yourself in a financially stressful situation.

As such, it is important to know what to do when you do experience ageism at work. The following are our recommended steps: 


  • Try dealing with the issue internally first. Speak to the people involved directly and talk to your manager and/or your internal HR department. Often, these issues can be resolved with internal mediation and disciplinary processes. This is the best-case scenario for you and prevents any more lengthy processes from needing to take place. Try and have as much evidence as you can before you broach the subject. 


  • Make a formal complaint to your employer. If the first step doesn’t work informally, you may need to make it formal. Put everything down in writing and send a formal complaint to your employer. You may need to follow your company’s official grievance policy so check this out in your contract first. 


  • If your employer does not fix the problem internally, you may wish to proceed with a claim to the Employment Tribunal. This must take place within 3 months of the incident happening and is a more formal process. You can talk to Citizen’s Advice to find out more about how this works and what your best plan of action is. 


  • Speak to a solicitor. If none of the above steps gives you the resolution you want, you can consult the law and take legal action. This is the most expensive and lengthy step, however, you may be entitled to legal aid. This option would involve providing concrete evidence and taking your employer to court. 


Finding an Inclusive Job

If you have experienced ageism at work, you may well be looking for a new job. And the new job you want will likely be something inclusive and equal so you can avoid a similar instance recurring.

At Aspiring to Include, we can help you find such a job with our inclusive job board and directory of inclusive employers

We know just how important it is to work somewhere you are respected and treated fairly and so our tools will help you find the best job opportunities possible. 

You can also take a peek at our support for jobseekers section, where you will find information on a wide range of topics including funding, grants, and schemes, your rights at work, discrimination in the workplace, and much more. 

And if there is something else you need but can’t find, don’t hesitate to reach out directly

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Last Updated: Saturday March 4 2023
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