What if: You are treated less favourably (worse) than another worker or job applicant because of your age?

For example: you are not given a job or promotion or access to facilities because of your age.  

This is known as Direct Discrimination, and unless it can be justified on reasonable grounds, it is unlawful.  It is very unusual to be able to successfully justify direct age discrimination.

What if: There is a rule or work practice which applies to everyone, but puts you and people of your age group at a particular  disadvantage because of your age?

For example: a job specification requires 10 years’ experience, and you are 25,  or all employees have to pass a fitness test, and you are not as fit as you used to be.

This is known as Indirect Discrimination and unless it can be justified on reasonable grounds, it is unlawful.

What if: Someone subjects you to something (conduct) that you do not want in relation to your age, and the conduct is either intended to or actually violates your dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for you?

For example one of your colleagues calls you a “stupid old git” or in front of other staff a senior manager says that you are “only a foolish girl”.

You do not need to be the butt of the conduct yourself e.g. if your ageing father works in the same workplace you may find ageist jokes offensive. This is known as “harassment”. It is linked with bullying. It is unlawful and can never be justified.

What if: Your employer treats you badly because you have made a complaint of discrimination, or supported or been associated with such a complaint, in good faith?

For example you help a colleague with an age related harassment claim against another worker, and your manager marks you down at your annual appraisal saying that you are “not very loyal”. 

This is known as “victimisation”. It can never be justified, and it is unlawful.

What if: Your employer instructs or encourages you to do something in relation to someone else which amounts to age discrimination?

For example you are a manager and your managing director hears that you are proposing to employ an older worker. He suggests that if you proceed with the appointment it might reflect poorly on your judgement and affect your future.  

This is known as causing or inducing discrimination and it is unlawful. It can never be justified.

What If: Someone helps someone else to discriminate against, harass or victimise you on the basis of your age?

This is known as “aiding discrimination”. A person who knowingly helps someone discriminate against, harass or victimise another person is treated as having done the unlawful act him or herself.

Exceptions with regard to Age Discrimination

  • Genuine occupational requirement
  • Service Related Benefits (up to 5 years’ employment and beyond if your employer reasonably believes that it fulfils a business need)
  • National Minimum Wage
  • Enhanced Redundancy Payments (if based on the statutory redundancy payment framework)
  • Life Assurance; Childcare benefits; Pension Schemes
  • Use of “Positive Action” rather than positive discrimination, to address existing inequalities

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The information contained on this page is for general information only and does not constitute legal advice. It states the law as of December 2014. We recommend that specific professional advice is obtained on any particular matter. We do not accept responsibility for any loss arising as a result of the use of the information contained in this page.