Insights 3 min Published: 2022-04-08

Have you Experienced Age Discrimination in your Workplace?

‍It is said that in Sweden age discrimination exists before the age of 25 and after the age of 45. That means that we have 20-25 years of being attractive in the job market in terms of the age perspective – half of the time you are expected to work. What is the definition of age discrimination and how can we avoid it?

What is Age Discrimination?

The issue of age discrimination in working life has received increasing attention during the 2000s. In Sweden, age was introduced as a basis for discrimination with the adoption of the Discrimination Act in 2009. Prior to that, there were no explicit laws against age discrimination in Swedish law. More than hundred reports of age discrimination are received each year by Diskrimineringsombudsmannen, but few lead to action in the form of supervisory decisions or court proceedings. The law defines age as life expectancy. By this, the law refers to a person’s life expectancy in terms of time. Everyone is covered by the protection as everyone has a life expectancy. Discrimination is often associated with more than one ground of discrimination. A woman of a certain age may therefore have different experiences of discrimination than a man who is the same age. In the same way, notions of age in combination with ethnicity, religion and so on can have an impact on how a person is treated or what obstacles they encounter. The reports that have been received by DO show that the grounds for discrimination, age and gender, often interact.

In 2020, Sweden’s management organization Ledarna conducted a survey in which managers had to answer questions about age discrimination in the workplace. The answers show that there are age-stereotyped generalizations about age and abilities. For example, younger people are believed to find it easier to absorb new technology and are more positive about change than older employees. While older people are considered to be more loyal to the employer and provides broader support for co-workers rather than younger colleagues. The answers also show a strong retirement norm at the age of 65.

What does age discrimination look like?

Today, we know that age discrimination takes place, but we lack sufficient knowledge of how common it is and how discrimination is usually expressed. This is partly because there is insufficient research in the area and only a small part of the perceived discrimination is being reported which results to a large number of unreported cases. The reports to DO can therefore only make some of the problems linking to discrimination visible. The most common things that are reported by employees are:

  • Employees’ attribution of negative stereotypical characteristics based on the notions of group affiliation.
  • Employees’ involvement in several events which allow discrimination to take place within the organization.
  • Similar events affecting others.
  • Employees’ attempts to adapt to escape discrimination in various ways.

How do we prevent age discrimination?

The Discrimination Act contains both a prohibition against discrimination and a requirement for active measures. The prohibition of discrimination focuses on protecting individuals from being discriminated against. The requirement for active measures focuses on the employer preventing and promoting work in order to counteract discrimination within an activity and in other ways work for equal rights and opportunities.

Organizations’ work with active measures is a good starting point for preventing discrimination in recruitment. Does your organization want to know more about methods and tools for working with active measures? Book a meeting with us!

Source: Diskrimineringsombudsmannen, Ledarna

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