Is Age Discrimination In The Workplace Real?

by | May 2, 2022 | Human Resources

Dear Business Partner, 

Last week I did a pole on my Facebook stories where I posed the question if age discrimination in the workplace is real?

I got an overwhelming response:  YES

What is Age discrimination?  Age discrimination is any prejudice; behaviour that targets or discounts a person based on their age. 



  • This can be when someone is denied a job due to their age, or
  • is denied access to learning or training based on their age or
  • maybe you think you can force an individual to take early retirement based on their age.   

The Basic Conditions of Employment Act in South Africa states: “No person may unfairly discriminate, directly or indirectly, against an employee, in any employment policy or practice, on one or more grounds, including age.” A candidate’s relevant experience is all that is required in a job application.  What?  Yes, age should have no bearing on an employee’s ability to perform their job.  Provided they are able and fit to perform their required tasks.

There is no law in South Africa that specifically states at what age any employee must retire.  The usual retirement age is between 60 and 65 years but an employee cannot ne forced to retire unless their employment contract specifies the retirement age or there is a company policy that sets the official age for it.  This means an employee can work for as long as they are able to unless there is an agreed retirement age.  You can also offer an employee a post retirement contract when they reach the retirement age of the company.   



  1. Strive to maintain a diverse workforce – be careful of basing your hiring decisions on assumptions.  Make sure you base your hiring decisions on facts, like skills demonstrated, and not basing it on assumptions, such as assuming older workers don’t want to collaborate with younger workers
  2. Avoid issues with your job descriptions – be mindful of how you describe skills.  Be careful of using words like ‘’young and energetic’’.  Rather use words that describe the candidates work ethic like “’motivated”’ or “’dedicated”’ and focus on describing the role and not the person.
  3. What information do you really need for the application – you can always ask for more information later.
  4. Be careful not to generalise – never assume that a candidate cannot keep up or will not understand the technology.      

Let me know if you have any questions. Just hit reply to this email. Welcome!

Arina Fyfer
082 745 6779