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The success rate of age discrimination claims has improved

The number of age discrimination claims accepted by employment tribunals increased by more than a third over the past year, according to the Employment Tribunals Service.

The median amount awarded by tribunals in age-related cases, £5,868, is on a par with several other discrimination strands. However, the maximum award for a case of age discrimination, £48,710, was significantly less than those awarded in four out of the other five discrimination strands – disability (£729,347), sex (£442,366), race (£374,922) and sexual orientation (£163,725).

But The Age and Employment Network (TAEN) believes the relatively small number of successful applications – 2% of age-related cases brought to tribunal – is due to the complexity of bringing claims and proving age discrimination has occurred.

Chris Ball, chief executive of TAEN, said: "We cannot pretend that age discrimination is not there. Ageism remains a persistent barrier for older people still in work. However, there is increased awareness of age discrimination and the legislation shows older workers that they have some redress.

"The number of claims is probably only the tip of the iceberg as far as the incidence of age discrimination is concerned and the real problem is that it is often difficult to prove such cases, however well-founded.

"There is a real need for research into the nature of the applications and the reasons why age cases, in common with other forms of discrimination, show such low success rates. It seems probable that there is considerable scope for improvement in the quality of support that applicants receive which, in turn, arises from too little understanding of the complex nature of age discrimination, particularly indirect discrimination.

 "The latter, in its very nature, is more difficult for claimants but if we really want age equality, we have to understand and come to grips with it.

"With the Government accelerating plans to abolish the Default Retirement Age and moving to speed up the increase in the state pension age, it is more vital than ever that the increasing numbers of older workers who inevitably come up against ageism have confidence in the fairness and robustness of the tribunals system.

"Working longer will simply not be an attractive option unless workers feel that their rights will be protected against those who would discriminate against them."