20 years of fighting age discrimination, and still many gaps to fill – AGE responds to EU consultation on Employment Directive

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AGE has responded to a EU consultation about the implementation of the Employment Directive, which is the only EU legal text with binding rule against age discrimination. 20 years after its adoption, we have taken stock of the challenges that remain to reach age equality in the labour market.

The directive, adopted by the EU Council in November 2000, concerns recruitment, employment, working conditions and some aspects of training and contains several important exceptions on this principle.

In our response to the European Commission, we have found that older workers are still disadvantaged because of :

  • Persisting ageist stereotypes: with managers preferring younger or middle-age candidates for hiring and recruitments, creating also barriers for older workers who hesitate to put themselves forward
  • New hiring practices via social media, reaching only younger potential candidates
  • Absence of age diversity in visible sectors (such as in the media) entrenching the idea that older workers can be sidelined
  • Lack of access and opportunities for older workers to life-long learning and training adapted to their needs


  • Employers do not know about support or lack encouragement to adapt workplaces physically to common impairments related to ageing and structurally to encourage horizontal labour mobility, job rotation and upskilling which are conducive to extending careers
  • There are unclear rules regarding the termination of a job around or after retirement age, some practices are judged discriminatory and some others are not
  • Social partners still use pre-retirement opportunities negotiated collective dismissals, condemning older workers to a career gap just before retirement age.

Beyond the scope of the Directive, the lack of adequate formal long-term care services poses a particular challenge to older female workers are more likely to take up care responsibilities. The notion of discrimination through association regarding informal carers (informal carers being discriminated against in the labour market because of the care needs of a family member, i.e. a person with disabilities) should be further explored and clarified.

Regarding the governance of the Directive, AGE noted that Equality Bodies have an important role to raise awareness and analyze potential cases of age discrimination. However, while the directive obliges governments to consult with civil society organisations, older persons‘ organisations have not been contacted for discussing age discrimination – only employment policies to prolong working lives more generally.

The European Commission will draft a report on the application of the Employment Directive, which also covers the grounds of disability, religion and belief and sexual orientation, based on national governments‘ and stakeholders‘ inputs.

Read AGE‘s answer to the Commission consultation on the application of the Employment Directive.

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