Age discrimination laws help to ensure that you are not denied a job, an equal chance of training or a promotion because of your age. They also protect you from harassment or victimisation because of your age.
Who is protected?
Age discrimination at work is unlawful in almost all types of employment. All employees and workers of any age are protected from age discrimination including partners of firms, contract workers and anyone in vocational training.
All aspects of your employment (or prospective employment) are protected from age discrimination including your:
- employment terms and conditions
- promotions and transfers
In some cases different treatment of a worker or employee because of their age can be justified,for example, making special provisions for younger or older workers in order to protect their safety and welfare.
Age discrimination protection does not cover the provision of goods and services.
Protection against age discrimination
Your employer must make sure that any redundancy policies don't directly or indirectly discriminate against older workers. An example of indirect discrimination could be your employer selecting only part-time workers for redundancy, when a large number of these may be older workers. The only exceptions are where an age requirement can be objectively justified.
There is no upper or lower age limit on the entitlement of statutory redundancy pay. Your employer will have to pay you the statutory minimum redundancy payment even if you are under 18 or over 65 (or after your normal retirement age if this is lower).
You must be allowed to work until you are 65 (this is the same for both men and women).
If your employer tries to force you to retire under the age of 65‚ or their own higher normal retirement age‚ you can claim for unfair dismissal. Employers will only be able to justify forced retirement under the age of 65 in exceptional circumstances.
For employees over the age of 65‚ it is lawful for an employer to force them to retire‚ as long as they follow the procedure outlined below. Employees have the right to request to continue working beyond the date when the employer wants them to retire, but the employer does not have to agree with this request.
Working after State Pension Age does not affect your right to the state pension. However‚ you can choose to delay drawing your state pension while you’re still working and this will entitle you to a higher annual income or a lump sum payment when you do retire.
These rules only apply to employees and civil servants. Other workers‚ such as police officers‚ office holders‚ and partners in firms are not covered and so forced retirement at any age will have to be justified.
Unfair dismissal claims
There is no upper age limit on making a claim of unfair dismissal.
Training providers (including employers, further or higher education institutions, private, public or voluntary sector training bodies and adult education programmes) cannot set upper or lower age limits for training, unless they can objectively justify the need.
Service related benefits
Many employers use service related pay and benefits to motivate staff, reward loyalty and recognise experience. If your employer uses ‘length of service’ criteria to increase staff pay or benefits, they can continue to do so as long as the period of service is not more than five years. If your employer uses a period longer than five years they must be able to justify their decision with a business need. For example by providing information about recruitment and retention.
Can you be refused a job because you're too young?
It is not unlawful for an employer to request a candidate's date of birth but this cannot be used to discriminate against the person. Older prople experience most age discrimination. However, it also takes place against young people.
It is unlawful for an employer to impose a lower age limit when recruiting, unless this age restriction can be objectively justified or is imposed by law.
If challenged, your employer must be able to justify that any direct or indirect discrimination is a proportionate way of achieving a legitimate aim.
What is proportionate?
Due to the nature of the work , an employer should have no reasonable alternative other than to introduce an age-based practice.
For example, a construction firm may require a good level of physical fitness and might have a case for setting a maximum age for their on-site workers for health and safety reasons.
What is a legitimate aim?
A wide variety of aims may be considered legitimate, but they must correspond with a reasonable need for your employer. Economic factors, such as business needs and efficiency may be legitimate aims, but arguing that it could be more expensive not to discriminate will not be a valid justification. For example, a high street fashion store who wishes to employ younger staff in order to complement their brand image is unlikely to be able to objectively justify this because it is not a valid aim.
What should you do next?
If you feel you're at a disadvantage because of age-related criteria for recruitment or promotion policies, or if you think you're suffering age discrimination, you will be able to bring a claim to an Industrial Tribunal. However, it's best to talk to your boss first to try to sort out the matter informally. You are entitled to write to your employer if you think you've been discriminated against or harassed because of your age.