Workplace age discrimination still an issue in Ireland

Published date16 April 2021
To some extent this is down to conscious bias. Those doing the hiring add up the years of experience on a CV and the person doesn't even get called for an interview. But a more subtle undercurrent of unconscious bias based on erroneous perceptions about people's capabilities as they age is also at play.

"Age discrimination has become a hot topic over the last five to 10 years and we saw an increase in claims on this ground during that period," says Síobhra Rush, an Irish-based partner with the international HR law firm Lewis Silkin.

"Employers need to remember that many employees are now well aware that they can challenge a compulsory retirement age if it's not objectively justifiable. Applicants for a role [or existing employees] can also challenge a recruitment decision if they feel they have been discriminated against on the grounds of age.

"That said, the number of age-discrimination cases brought before the Workplace Relations Commission [WRC] was down in 2019, presumably as a result of the code of practice on longer working issued by the WRC and the IHREC [Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission] guidelines regarding the offer of fixed-term contracts after an employee has reached the retirement age for that employment."

Stereotyping around ageing is widespread despite having no established scientific basis, according to Dr Trudy Corrigan, a researcher in the DCU-based National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre.

"The stereotyping of older people in society at large is pervasive. It has a powerful influence and it often starts in childhood, which is why a positive attitude to ageing needs to be nurtured from early on," she says.

"In the context of the workplace, it includes assumptions that once people reach a certain age they become resistant to change and have less ability to learn new skills - especially in technology. However, evidence to support these stereotypes is rarely found and, in fact, the capacity to learn is largely unaffected by age.

"An important consideration when looking at research on ageing, especially in the workplace, concerns the hard evidence regarding intellectual functioning," adds Corrigan, who recently co-authored Ageism and Bullying in the Workplace with Prof Mark Morgan.

"The research derived from psychometric studies, as well as work-based outcomes, suggest that common perceptions regarding older people may be quite wrong. Increased age is seldom associated with lower levels of cognitive functioning.


To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT