Age discrimination is not what it used to be.
The problem is I don’t so much get senior moments these days as senior minutes, hours, even weeks, and it may be that I’m misremembering, to quote someone whose name is on my lips but...
But let’s get serious, while there is still time left to me.
Age discrimination is alive and well, with claims rising 164% in 2010.
Data from employment tribunals shows they issued 1,100 age discrimination claims in the last quarter of 2009 compared to 2,900 in the last quarter of 2010.
And now a charity, care provider the Anchor Trust, has got in on the act by launching Grey Pride, a punningly-named campaign that is to petition the government to appoint a Minister for Older People.
‘Older’ in this context is over-60, which apparently embraces 40% of the people in the UK who are eligible to vote.
Anchor points to a number of over-60s who are still high achievers, like rock star Bruce Springsteen, 61, and football manager Sir Alex Ferguson, 69, but says society is ‘increasingly focused on youth’ and that young adults believe the over-60s should ‘make way’ for the next generation.
Which is a neat way to remind us that age discrimination isn’t just about old age. It’s also about, to coin a phrase, young age – you can also be discriminated against because you are deemed too young.
But surely, I hear you protest, the legal profession would never stoop so low as to discriminate on any grounds, least of all age – particularly while judges continue to sit into their 70s.
I’ll try and break this to you gently – employment lawyers report an increasing number of age discrimination claims being brought by solicitors.
National firm Russell Jones & Walker employment solicitor Claire Dawson told me: ‘We must see this in context. When the economy was booming, many partners were happy to retire at 55 – they could look forward to a long and comfortable retirement. Sadly, that’s no longer the case and an increasing number of partners are refusing to go quietly.’
Dawson added that she was also receiving enquiries from non-partner solicitors who claimed they were being ‘eased out’ of law firms simply because of their age. ‘But one of the difficulties of all such claims is proving that age really was the reason – it’s often not clear,’ she said.
Another solicitor, who asked to remain anonymous, told me that ‘nepotism’ was the only way a solicitor over the age of 50 could ever get a job at the London firm where she works.
She said: ‘Unless you know one of the partners, you won’t even get an interview.’
Yet another solicitor, who also did not want to be named, gave the example of a mature student with whom he did his legal practice course.
He said: ‘She did as well as any of us, but was the only one who failed to find a training contract. The only thing that was different about her was her age, which may be a coincidence. Sadly, to this day she has never practised.’
And yet another solicitor, anonymously again, told me his experience of age discrimination.
He said: ‘I was too young and fresh faced to be put in front of the firm’s biggest clients.
'The head of department didn’t want grey-haired senior executives thinking that the firm had sent the office junior, so the older guys got all the career-building work and I did the written stuff. I’m sure I could have done as good a job as them.’
It is in the public domain that magic circle firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer successfully fought off an age discrimination claim from former partner Peter Bloxham in 2007.
It is also known that an age discrimination claim unsuccessfully brought by former partner Leslie Seldon against Kent firm Clarkson Wright & Jakes is soon to be appealed by Seldon in the Supreme Court.
Age discrimination in the legal profession is very much a live issue.
And now I must go and sign that Grey Pride petition.
Article from The Law Society Gazette