Age Discrimination

What types of age discrimination are there?

Discrimination because of age can be either direct or indirect. Under the law, both direct and indirect discrimination is unlawful unless it can be justified, or if an exception applies.

Direct discrimination

This is the treatment of people less favourably due to their age or apparent age. An example might be if a company refuses to recruit someone simply because of their age, or only promote people under a certain age to senior positions.

Indirect discrimination.

This is a policy or practice that a company or organization has that puts people over a certain age at a disadvantage. An example might be if  a company restricts recruitment to graduates only, which means that fewer older people would be able apply. 


Harassment based on someone’s age is unlawful. The is defined as unwanted comments, jokes or communications on the grounds of age which has the purpose or effect of humiliating a person or removing dignity. This includes harassing someone on the grounds that they associate with someone significantly younger than them. This would be considered as unlawful if the person was humiliated or offended


This means specifically being treated unfairly after making a complaint of age discrimination, or giving evidence when others complain of age discrimination. Unlike the other kinds of discrimination, victimisation can not be justified by an employer.

Instructions to discriminate

If an employee refuses to carry out, or neglects to carry out an instruction to discriminate according to age, it will be unlawful for that employee to be treated unfairly because of their refusal to carry it out, or because of their objections to the instruction.

Which areas are covered by the law?


Employers are not allowed to refuse to hire someone because of their age, unless the applicant is six months away from the age of 65, or the employer’s retirement age. Employers can set age requirements for a job if there is a occupational requirement or they can justify doing so. 


Employees who are over 65 and are made redundant will be entitled to statutory redundancy pay. It is unlawful for an employer to consider age when selecting people for redundancy. 

Unfair dismissal

As the statutory upper age limit has been removed, employees over the age of 65 can challenge for unfair dismissal.

Statutory sick pay

People over the age of 65 who are working are entitled to statutory sick pay for up to 28 weeks, like all other employees. 


If an employer tries to force retirement under the age of 65 (or the the employers retirement age), a claim for age discrimination and unfair dismissal can be made. Employees over 65 have the right to request to carry on working.

Which areas are not covered by the law?


Volunteers are not protected from age discrimination. Unpaid work is only covered if it is part of a training course. Unpaid office holders are protected, but only if  government appointed e.g. magistrates. 

The provision of goods and services

The law does not apply to the provision of goods and services. This means that, for example, insurance companies and health care providers can discriminate on the grounds of age.

When can discrimination according to age be justified?

In some circumstances employers might be able to justify age discrimination. They will need to prove that it is a necessary method to achieve a legitimate aim. 

They would have to demonstrate:

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For more information on:

  • For example:
  • Exceptions to the law
  • Benefits that link to length of service
  • A genuine occupational requirement
  • Where there’s a need for ‘positive discrimination’
  • Proving age discrimination in recruitment
  • Enforcing your rights