Our goal is to encourage participation by older people in Irish society. This cannot happen unless we deal with some of the unnecessary barriers that still stand in our way as older people. Ageist attitudes, outmoded thinking on getting older and blatant discrimination on age grounds all need to be tackled if we want to talk about full, meaningful participation at all levels.
We aim to challenge attitudes through various programmes like AgeWise and Ageing with Confidence. In Ireland, there is a legal framework in place to address ageism in the workplace and in the delivery of goods and services.
There are two principal laws dealing with age discrimination in Ireland: The Employment Equality Act (1998) and the Equal Status Act (2000).
Employment Equality Act
The Employment Equality Act (1998) established wide-ranging protections against age discrimination in recruitment, dismissals and training in Irish law for the first time. Discrimination in employment on any one of nine named grounds, including age, is outlawed. The eight other grounds are: gender, marital status, family status, disability, race, sexual orientation, religious belief and membership of the Travelling Community.
When it was introduced, the Act had an upper age limit of 65 for its operation - that meant that people over 65 who experienced discrimination at work were not protected by its terms. However, this has been changed by the Equality Act, 2004, which brings people aged over 65 within the terms of the Act. In other words, it is now unlawful to discriminate in employment against anyone irrespective of what age they are.
Equal Status Act
In 2000, the Equal Status Act came into operation to ban discrimination to anybody buying goods, using services, obtaining accommodation and attending educational establishments on the same nine grounds as the Employment Equality Act, including age. There has never been an upper age limit for the application of the Equal Status Act and people of all ages are protected by its provisions.
The Equality Authority was set up in 1999 to work towards eliminating discrimination in employment, in the provision of goods and services, education, property and other opportunities to which the public generally have access. The Authority has an in-house legal service and provides a free confidential information and advisory service. If you have a query or a complaint regarding discrimination on grounds of age, contact the Equality Authority.
Contact the Equality Authority at:
Clonmel St., Dublin 2
Tel (01) 417 3333 or LoCall 1890 245 545
Web site www.equality.ie
Member States of the European Union have recognised the importance of combating age discrimination in Article 13 of the Treaty of Amsterdam. Subsequently, the Community Action Programme to Combat Discrimination 2001 - 2006 and the EU Directive on Equal Treatment in Employment were adopted in October 2000.
AGE, the European Older People's Platform, is a new organisation that aims to voice and promote the interests of older people in the European Union and to raise awareness of the issues that truly concern older people. Read more about AGE...
Legislation in the US
In the United States there has been substantial legal protection of older workers for many years. Indeed Europeans who return from the US holidays often comment on the consequent visibility of older people across a range of employments. The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (known as the ADEA) has been in place since 1967. Many States have also passed their own laws which are even stronger than the federal law.
The ADEA protects people who are aged 40 and over from discrimination in any aspect of employment including recruitment, promotion and training. It applies to all private employers with 20 or more employees, state and local governments. Discriminatory practice also includes harassment on grounds of age and employment decisions based on stereotypes or assumptions about the abilities, traits or performance of individuals of a certain age. The legislation does provide for some exceptions - for example, airline pilots and air-traffic controllers.
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces this legislation. They provide information and assistance to individuals. US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Publications Distribution Center, PO Box 12549, Cincinnati, Ohio 45212 -0549.
Information on US age legislation also from AARP.
Statistics on Attitudes to Ageism in the EU
Published in July 2008, Eurobarometer asked all EU Member States what they really thought about discrimination. How Irish people compare makes for some interesting reading.
On the face of it, it looks like good news; we are combating ageist attitudes well in Ireland. When asked about whether ageism was widespread here, Irish people class themselves as among the least ageist in Europe. In fact, the European average was twice as high as in Ireland. Does this mean that we are living in a non-ageist paradise? Or does it mean that Irish people are less likely to acknowledge ageism than in other countries?
One way the researchers tried to probe this a little deeper was by asking whether someone would be comfortable about electing a President who was over 75 or under 30. While Irish people were among the most comfortable with the prospect, we still only gave a comfort level of six-out-of-ten.
One in ten Irish people in the survey said they had been discriminated against, which is lower than the EU average, but the researchers point out that this is mainly because Irish people are two times less likely than other Europeans to report being discriminated against on age grounds. This fact is made even more worrying when the researchers discovered that only three out of every ten people would know their rights if they were being discriminated against and that people over 50 are the least likely to know what to do when faced with discrimination.
When it comes to working, most Irish people (80%) are in favour of what the study calls ‘equal opportunity measures’ to include more older people or people with a disability. Here again, we score higher than our other EU neighbours. This is great, but we still have some ways to go; people said that, after physical appearance, the biggest thing that goes against someone getting a job is their age.