Age Discrimination

The Equality Act of 2010 made it illegal to discriminate against employees, trainees and job seekers on the grounds of age and gave no upper age limit for redundancy and unfair dismissal.

The act covers all workers and applies to related areas such as membership of trade organisations, the award of qualifications, the services of careers guidance organisations, employment agencies and vocational training providers, including further and higher education institutions.

There are four types of age discrimination

  1. Direct discrimination – where someone is treated less favourably because of their age, perceived age or the age of someone with whom they are associated. This treatment can only be considered appropriate if it is proportionate and necessary to achieve a legitimate aim. A legitimate aim may be an economic or efficiency required business need.

  2. Indirect Discrimination – where a policy, practice or procedure that effects everyone indirectly affects people in a certain age group. Again indirect discrimination can only be justified if it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

  3. Harassment – where unwanted conduct relating to age has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual.

  4. Victimisation – where someone is unfairly treated as the result of a complaint or by supporting a complaint of age discrimination.

All employers should have policies in place and regularly reviewed to prevent discrimination across all areas of their business including recruitment and selection, training and development, pay and benefits, selection procedures for promotion and disciplinary and grievance procedures.

Under the age discrimination laws all employees must be treated fairly and consistently irrespective of age and decisions made based on ability. Employees cannot be treated more or less favourably because of their age, unless there is an objective justification for it as a proportionate response to a legitimate need.

Following on from the 2010 Act in October 2011 the Default Retirement Age was effectively ended when employers were prevented from issuing default retirement notices to their employees. This meant that employers need to take a more objective approach to retirement and performance management.