Age discrimination under the Equality Act 2010

What does the Act prohibit?

The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination (whether direct or indirect), harassment and victimisation on the ground of a person’s age.

What is direct discrimination?

Direct discrimination occurs where a person treats another person less favourably than he or she treats or would treat others on grounds of their age.

However, conduct which would on the face of it amount to direct discrimination is permitted if the conduct amounts to a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

What is indirect discrimination?

Indirect discrimination occurs where a provision, criterion or practice, which is applied or would apply equally to persons not of the same age group, puts persons of a particular age group at a disadvantage.

Conduct which can be shown to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim is, however, permitted.

What is harassment?

Harassment occurs where a person is subjected to unwanted conduct related on grounds of their age which has the purpose or effect of violating their dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for him.

What is victimisation?

Victimisation occurs where a person is subjected to a detriment by reason of the fact that he has (or it is believed that he has or may) carried out one of the following acts:

  • brought or given evidence or information in proceedings brought under the Act;

  • the doing of something for the purposes of or in connection with the Act.

  • made an allegation that a person has contravened the Act.

However, the giving of false evidence or information, or the making of a false allegation is not protected by the Act if it is given or made in bad faith.

Does the Act apply only to the elderly?

The Act applies to anyone who is discriminated against, harassed or victimised on the ground of their age. It, therefore, applies to the young as well as the elderly.

In what circumstances does the Act apply?

Employment

At present the provisions of the Act will impact mainly on matters of the work place. In this respect the Act applies to all aspects of employment including recruitment, terms and conditions of employment, training, promotions and transfers, dismissals, redundancy and retirement.

Employers are still able to discriminate against their employees on grounds of their age where such discrimination is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. For example, it may be legitimate for an employer to discriminate against older or younger workers in order to protect their safety and welfare, particularly in the construction industry.

An employer can only force a person to retire before they reach the age of 65 if a lower retirement age is necessary taking into account the nature of the job and if an employee wishes to remain in employment beyond the age of 65 the employer has to consider their request.

The Act applies to contract workers, partners of firms and anyone in vocational training as well as employees.

Education

The Act also prohibits discrimination, harassment and victimisation of grounds of age by further and higher education institutions. Such institutions will need, therefore, to justify any upper or lower age limits for training.

Provision of services to the public

The Act also prohibits age discrimination, harassment and victimisation in relation to the provision of services to the public. These provisions have not, however, been brought into force yet and the government is currently considering how to implement them. It is envisaged that service providers will be allowed to treat people of different age groups differently where there are justifiable reasons for doing so, for example by providing concessions to the over-65s, by targeting products at certain age groups and by charging higher insurance premiums for young and elderly drivers.

How is the Act enforced?

Where a provision of the Act is contravened proceedings can be brought through the Civil Courts. If the claim arises out of the employment of a person a claim can be brought in an Employment Tribunal.

A wide range of remedies are available to the Civil Courts and Employment Tribunals including the power to award compensation for injured feelings and to make recommendations to reduce discrimination in the workplace.

Normally claims brought in the Civil Courts will have to be brought within 6 years of the date of the act to which the claim relates and within 3 months in the case of claims brought in an Employment Tribunal.