Challenging Ageism in Employment: An Analysis of the Implementation of Age Discrimination Legislation in England and Wales

  • Lynda Diane Irving

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations were introduced in England and Wales in 2006, seeking to prohibit age discrimination in employment and vocational training. This thesis assesses whether the legislation adopted is an effective mechanism by which to address age discrimination in the workplace and achieve the dual but contradictory objectives of the European Union Framework Directive on Equal Treatment of achieving equal treatment between age cohorts whilst encouraging the active participation of older citizens in the workplace. The thesis sheds light on this hitherto unregulated suspect ground of discrimination by means of a quantitative and qualitative analysis of all employment tribunal judgments which relate to an age discrimination claim over a three and a half year period.

    This study shows that very few claimants were successful if their claim of age discrimination was considered by a tribunal and there was considerable inconsistency of implementation and interpretation of the legislation by individual tribunals. Employers have quickly developed defences against claims of age discrimination in order to maintain their freedom to contract and the imbalance between the two parties was particularly noticeable with claimant credibility often under scrutiny – a process claimants appeared unprepared for. Regional discrepancies were found in terms of success rates and compensation awards. A gender award gap was found in both overall compensation and injury to feelings awards, with women given smaller awards than men, whilst younger workers were given smaller awards than older workers. Legal representation made a substantial difference to success rates and compensation awards, but the majority of awards were low and many would not have covered legal costs. The low compensation awards do not provide an effective deterrent, as required by the Article 17 of the Directive. The legislation is particularly ineffective for those who claimed they had suffered multiple discrimination.

    Although an important first step in regulating ageist behaviour, the Regulations and the subsequent Equality Act 2010 will be unlikely to achieve the aims of the Directive as they provide little incentive for claimants to undertake the stressful process of making a claim under the legislation, which relies upon individual fault-finding.
    Date of Award2012
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorBarry Mitchell (Supervisor), Jane Johnson (Supervisor) & Tracey Reeves (Supervisor)

    Cite this