Age Discrimination and Older Workers
What is age discrimination in the workplace?
Examples of age discrimination in the workplace include situations when a person is denied a job due to their age, or is denied access to learning or training based on their age, or is forced to take early retirement based on their age. Surveys have shown that age discrimination is rife in recruitment.
Is this legal?
No. Employers are not allowed to hire an employee based on their age. A candidate's relevant experience is all that is required in a job application. This protects both young professionals as well as older more matured workers from being discriminated against. Age should have no bearing on an employee's ability to perform their job. Provided they are able and fit to perform the required tasks, all that applies is their level of experience. The Basic Conditions of Employment Act in South Africa states that “no person may unfairly discriminate, directly or indirectly, against an employee, in any employment policy or practice, on one or more grounds, including age …”.
But it still happens?
Yes. Studies have shown that there are still ageist attitudes among employers, with evidence to show that employers often have negative perceptions about older workers, especially about their ability to adapt to technological and organisational change.
What are other difficulties older workers face?
Employment opportunities for older workers may be limited because their skills have become devalued or they receive little help in finding new jobs. Available employment opportunities may be not be suitable because of poor working conditions or inflexible working-time arrangements.
What can older workers do, if they face discrimination?
If an older worker is in employment, and feels they have been discriminated against due to their age, they should contact their union, if they are a member. Alternatively, they should contact the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and present their case.
Find out more about Discrimination in the Workplace.