This section provides general information on employment law. If you have specific questions, you should seek legal advice from a lawyer or trade union.
WorkLine offers advice on the website, through a confidential phone number or email. The service is sponsored by the UK Film Council and Women in Film and Television, and supported by Goodman Derrick LLP (Employment Lawyers).
The information in this section of the Diversity Toolkit has been compiled Croner, an organisation providing information, advice and support in the areas of employment, health and safety and environmental compliance.
Protection against discrimination in employment on the grounds of age came into effect in October 2006 when the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 were implemented. On 1 October 2010, the main provisions of the Equality Act 2010 came into force. The Act consolidated all the previous discrimination laws, including the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations, into one Act, reconciling most of the differences between them and repealing the age regulations. The Equality Act applies to job applicants, all workers including contract workers and agency temps, apprentices, office holders, the police and people in vocational training. It prohibits unjustified direct and indirect age discrimination, victimisation and harassment related to age, of people of any age, young or old. There is no qualifying period of service necessary to make a complaint to a tribunal, and no limit on the amount of compensation that can we awarded.
Questions and Answers
We realise that employing older workers is not only good from a business standpoint but that it will help our company demonstrate that we are not ageist. Can we actively target workers over fifty in our next recruitment drive?
While this is a laudable aim, this policy could contravene the Equality Act 2010 which covers workers of all ages. Discriminatory treatment of younger workers could very easily lead to claims and should be avoided.
When our staff reach fifty years old, we insist that they undertake a physical test to make sure that they are "up to the job". Is this permissible under the Equality Act 2010?
You would have to justify such a policy by demonstrating that those over fifty were at a greater risk in their work than the younger workers whom you employ. A better solution would be to require all staff, whatever their age, to undergo a fitness test relevant to their work at defined intervals.
Our company awards sabbaticals to staff after they have ten years' service with us. Is this lawful in light of age discrimation legislation?
Yes. Service-related benefits, which might otherwise be discriminatory against younger staff are permitted provided the purpose of offering the sabbaticals is to encourage loyalty, reward experience or maintain/enhance motivation.
One of our junior staff has complained that she is constantly referred to as "that young lassie" by her male middle manager. Could she make a claim under the Age Discrimination Regulations?
Remarks of this nature could constitute harassment on the grounds of age and the employee could make a claim against both the employer and the manager. The employer would be vicariously liable for the manager's conduct unless it could show that it had taken all reasonable steps to prevent such behaviour from occurring.
- There is no upper or lower age limit in respect of unfair dismissal or statutory redundancy pay rights.
- Direct and indirect discrimination because of age are prohibited unless the employer can show objective justification for their actions.
- To justify age discrimination, the employer has to show that they had a legitimate aim and that the action taken or criteria applied represented an appropriate and necessary means of achieving that aim.
- Certain types of positive action are allowed if the employer believes that persons of a particular age group are under-represented, have special needs or are disadvantaged in relation to particular work and the employer wishes to address the under-representation, special needs or disadvantage.
- Employers may base differences in pay and benefits on length of service, but only if the length of service criterion used is five years or less; if longer, the enhanced pay or benefits must be in place for the purpose of encouraging loyalty, rewarding experience or maintaining/enhancing motivation.
- A national default retirement age of 65 is currently set and a retirement age below 65 is unlawful unless the employer can justify it on objective grounds.
- Employers must give between six months' and 12 months' notice to employees before their intended retirement dates and inform them of their right to request not to be retired.
- Employees have the right to ask their employers to let them work beyond age 65 and such requests must be considered in good faith and according to a prescribed procedure.
- Certain types of positive action are allowed if the employer believes that persons of a particular age group are disadvantaged in relation to particular work and the employer wishes to compensate for that disadvantage.
- The upper age limits for unfair dismissal and statutory redundancy rights have been abolished.