17 FEB 2020 

Age discrimination is no joke, and can affect individuals of all ages in any field of work, says Natalie Shaw, Director of Employment Affairs at the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS).

Age discrimination is a form of unfair treatment, and the age gap between employees in the workplace can now be as much as 50 years,” says Shaw. “We are seeing a changing global workforce that is continuing to work longer, yet there are still many stereotypes associated with age that can play out on board ship. This can affect not only older employees, but also the young who can suffer from age-related stereotypes at the other end of the spectrum.

“As well as avoiding legal consequences, preventing age discrimination can help ship operators to motivate and retain staff and improve the working environment on board ship, enhancing reputations as quality employers. Having different age groups in a team with shared goals can unite employees as they swap ideas, experience and knowledge.”

Under the ILO MLC, the flag state must ensure that its regulations respect the fundamental right to be free from age discrimination, which can affect the physical and emotional health of employees, decrease motivation and increase sickness rates, as well as compromising cohesive and effective teamwork.

The ICS has released new Guidelines for Ship owners to Avoid Age Discrimination On Board Ships, which is available free of charge via the ICS website. The ICS Guidelines address different types of age discrimination, whether direct or indirect, and show how this can be avoided with respect to recruitment, training, pay and promotion, as well as redundancy and retirement.

The Guidelines note that some words might be descriminatory. For example: a younger employee calling an older colleague “Gramps” or “old timer” or an older employee telling a young employee they are “wet behind the ears.” In discrimination, how the recipient perceives words and actions may matter more than the intention of the deliverer.

Sometimes a situation, where a joke, banter or remark has caused offencs or upset, can be handled by a manager informally discussing it with an employee and explaining that they have caused offense to ensure they do not do it again. In a situation where someone has used a word by mistake or there was a misunderstanding, or a comment made without thought, a manager may choose to handle it informally.

In situations where a term is used deliberately and maliciously, or to embarrass and humiliate, the ship owner should formally review the matter. 

“The ICS Guidelines emphasize the importance of judging people on their performance or the quality of their job applications,” says Shaw. “It seeks to tackle head-on the need to avoid damaging assumptions or stereotypes that can be unfairly associated with particular age groups.”


The Guidelines notes some to watch out for:

The Guidelines are available here.

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