In a recent revelation at the TRIC's Outstanding Achievement Award ceremony, presenter Angela Rippon accused former BBC Director General John Birt of age and gender discrimination during his tenure at the broadcasting corporation.
Rippon, 79, disclosed that Birt had urged her to resign when she turned 50, allegedly stating that she had 'had her day' and it was time to make room for younger women in the industry.
The presenter, who has been a prominent figure in broadcasting for 57 years, criticised Birt for being both a misogynist and an ageist in one statement.
"John Birt, you said I've had my day but what I've actually had right up until now is the time of my life," Rippon stated, as reported by The Telegraph. "And one final message to John Birt, when I was 50, you said I'd had my day. I'm now 79, and I ain't finished yet!" she concluded.
Gender and age discrimination still rife within the workplace
Rippon's claims are symptomatic of the widespread ageism and sexism that still exists within the workplace. The 2022 Gender Equality in the Workplace report by Randstad, which surveyed 6,000 working adults, revealed that two-thirds (67%) of women had experienced gender discrimination in the workplace of some form.
Similarly, data from the UK Parliament found that of workers who have applied for jobs since turning 50, over a quarter (27%) have been put off jobs since turning 50 as they sound like they're aimed at younger candidates; almost a third (32%) believe they have been turned down for a job because of their age.
Legal implications of discrimination at work
Speaking to HR Grapevine, Stephen Woodhouse, Employment Law Solicitor at Stephensons, said that age, like gender, is a protected characteristic and therefore, attempting to force a worker into retirement due to age is illegal.
“Under legislation set out in the Equality Act 2010, age is categorised as a ‘protected characteristic’. This essentially means that an employer cannot make derogatory comments, treat someone less favourably or for that person to be put at a disadvantage, because of their age,” Woodhouse said.
“In some scenarios, an employer may be allowed to apply a genuine occupational requirement for a job role based on age. However, this must be objectively justified and a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. If an organisation discriminates against an employee because of their age, without objective justification, that is likely to be grounds for the employee to bring a claim at an employment tribunal.
Woodhouse’s advice for HR in preventing age discrimination
“It is imperative that HR teams take measures to prevent age discrimination in the workplace. For instance, this could include the implementation and communication of anti-discrimination policies, regularly reviewing hiring and recruitment practices as well as better training for colleagues to provide guidance on how to eradicate age discrimination in the workplace,” Woodhouse added.
Rippon’s comments levelled at her ex-boss are a prime example of why age and gender discrimination cannot be a part of any healthy workplace. Her comments of alleged mistreatment at the hands of the BBC raise serious questions about the organisation’s ethics which, as with any workplace, may well lead to higher turnover and a challenge in attracting talent.
As Rippon’s case evidences, it’s clear that there are still ongoing challenges in eradicating biases at work which HR is yet to fully confront.