Age discrimination

What is age discrimination?

Age discrimination in the workplace is a continuing and pervasive issue, and is prohibited under s.5 of the Equality Act 2010. The Equality Act 2010 consolidated the myriad legislation relating to discrimination in the workplace.

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Who qualifies to claim for age discrimination?

Unlike other rights which are restricted to employees (such as unfair dismissal and certain TUPE-related rights), equality rights (rights prohibiting discrimination) can be exercised by both employees and workers. Applicants, contract workers and former employees also qualify for protection from age discrimination. There is also no qualifying period (unlike unfair dismissal) to allow these rights to be exercised.

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What is the protected characteristic of age?

  • A reference to a person who is of a particular age group
  • A reference to a person who is of the same age group
  • A reference to a persons defined by reference to age, whether a particular age or a range of ages

To explain this issue in more detail, a particular age would be, for example, 30 years old or 65 years old. A range of ages would be, for example, employees aged 50 to 65.

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What types of age discrimination are there?

  • Direct age discrimination – you’re being treated less favourably than other employees because of your age.  Example: you are told that you shouldn’t apply to a particular position because you’re too old.
  • Indirect age discrimination – the application of a provision, criterion or practice to you which is discriminatory because of your age. Example: an advertisement for an internal position states that only recent graduates will be considered.
  • Age-related harassment – you’re being subjected to (or have been subjected to) unwanted conduct related to your age which has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for you or violating your dignity. Example: you’re described as “wrinkly” or “old” by a co-worker.
  • Victimisation – you are being (or have been) subjected to a detriment because you’ve done a protected act (or intend to do a protected act). Example: you’re giving witness evidence in favour of a co-worker who has been harassed at work because of their age.
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Defences to age discrimination

Unlike other areas of discrimination, employers can justify both direct and indirect age discrimination by seeking to show that their discriminatory conduct had a legitimate aim and was proportionate.

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