THE UK has an ageing population. According to the Office of National Statistics, the percentage of people aged 65 or older who are in employment has doubled since 1998. Meanwhile, young people are more likely to stay in education for longer, delaying their entry into the workforce.

Here we provide considerations on how to manage an ageing workforce. We will be covering the ageing workforce as one of our topics at our upcoming Employment Law Update seminars. Please visit our website here for more information.

More information can also be found via ACAS, who have produced a helpful ‘age and the workplace’ guide for employers.


It is important for employers to adopt fair and transparent recruitment and selection processes when making decisions about the general suitability of individuals for specific roles; employers that make assumptions that certain types of jobs require people of a certain age can lead to allegations of unlawful age discrimination, which leaves employers at risk of costly claims. It is good practice to remove a person’s age and date of birth from their application forms to avoid age bias.

Avoid references to age in your job descriptions and person specifications. Unnecessary information included in your application processes may also be discriminatory. As an example, if you ask for X amount of years’ experience, you could be discriminating against older and younger candidates, when what is really required are the skills to do the job. Just because someone had been working in the same role for a number of years, don’t necessarily mean they are the best person to undertake the role being advertised.


The default retirement age of 65 was abolished in 2011. Unless it is objectively justified as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, businesses can no longer force employees to retire and retirement is no longer a fair reason for dismissal.


Employers should not discriminate against a person because of age, or any of the other protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. Failure to provide training to an employee due to their age, is direct age discrimination. Opportunities for training and development should be equal and open to all employees. Employer’s should be careful not to make assumptions about an employee’s competence based on their age, and if issues are raised in relation to an employee’s capability, these should be thoroughly investigated. If there are performance management issues, all employees should be performance managed consistently, regardless of age.   

Menopause at work

One in eight of women in the workforce is over 50. By 2022 this will be one in six. Many women will have perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms that affect their work: for one in three the symptoms are severe. These range from difficulty sleeping and tiredness, to anxiety and panic attacks. If a worker does not get the help and support that they need, they can become ill, lose confidence in their work, and develop mental health problems. ACAS has produced useful guidance for employers to help them manage the impact of the menopause at work.

Equal opportunities

Employers should have robust equal opportunities policies in place which prohibit discrimination in all aspects of the business.  It is no longer enough to defend an Employment Tribunal claim to simply have a policy. Employers must also be able to demonstrate the they have trained employees how to behave at work. Taking reasonable steps to prevent discrimination from taking place will provide an employer with a defence to claims brought by an employee.

If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact our Employment Team on 01228 552600 or 01524 548494.

This does not provide a full statement of the law and readers are advise to take legal advice before taking any action based on the information contained herein.

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