Age Discrimination Legislation Is Not Only for the Older Workers; the Wednesday Essay Wales Has Taken an Important Lead in Becoming the First UK Region to Appoint a Commissioner for Older People. but Much Needs to Be Done to Eradicate Age Discrimination, against Young as Well as Older Employees, Argues Matthew Smith, Employment Partner at Morgan Cole Solicitors, Cardiff

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Byline: Matthew Smith

Age discrimination is not just a concern for the older and younger workers whom it affects each year, but should be high on the agenda for every organisation in Wales.

The decision by the Welsh Assembly Government to appoint the highly-respected Ruth Marks as the Commissioner for Older People in Wales attracted a great deal of media interest and is an important step.

This is not only the first such post in the UK, but it is suggested, the first appointment of its kind anywhere. In this respect, Wales is taking a very important lead.

Ms Marks took up her position on Monday and the main aim of her role is to ensure the interests of older people in Wales - by that she means people aged 60 years and older - are safeguarded and promoted.

As Ms Marks has said: "We must value older people more and robustly tackle discrimination on the grounds of age."

Legislation prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of age, in the context of employment and training, came into force as long ago as October 2006, with the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006.

Most people are now generally aware that it is unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of age, but it is sometimes forgotten that the regulations protect younger workers as well as older ones.

Indeed, there is evidence that younger workers are just as concerned about discriminatory practices on the grounds of age.

For example, the Employers Forum on Age has carried out widespread research into the issue of ageism and this revealed that:

Nearly 30% of workers are aware of an older person getting paid more than a younger person for doing the same job;

15%know of a younger person at work overlooked for promotion in favour of an older person irrespective of experience;

45% correctly identified that ageism is an issue which can affect anyone of any age. But 33% still believed it only affected older people.

The recent decision in one case, Thomas v Eight Members Club, is interesting because the claimant was dismissed on the grounds that she was too young.

At the time of her dismissal, Ms Thomas was 19 years old. She had been in the job for four months when her manager told her she was too young to do the job and that, if he had met her a few years later, perhaps she would have been able to do it. …