Age Discrimination

What Is Age Discrimination?

Age discrimination is when you are treated differently in a way which is related to your age – either your actual age or that of your age group. Have I been discriminated against?

There are two ways an employer can discriminate against you on grounds of your age. Look at the examples below and if your case is similar to any of these you should call our specialist Employment Barristers today.

Direct discrimination is when you are mistreated or dismissed because of your age. For example, you are not promoted, despite being the most qualified person for the job because you are deemed to be too old for the position. This would be discrimination unless your employer can justify its decision. Justifications include:

  • Business needs and efficience
  • Health and safety
  • Particular training requirements
  • Need for a reasonable period of employment before retirement

Social objectives such as vocational training of a particular age group or integration of a particular age group into work force

Indirect discrimination is when you employer applies the same rules to everyone but these rules are more burdensome for you because of your age. For example, you may want to work part-time because you have an elderly relative who needs care or because you feel you a slowing down due to your age. A further example is that you want to apply for a promotion but you are required to have a degree. You are near retirement and therefore cannot obtain a degree before you are due to retire. This is discriminatory because your working life would come to an end before you could qualify for the promotion due to your age. Your employer may be able to justify age discrimination but the rules are strict.There are also two other types of claim that are related to age discrimination. These are:

Victimisation is when you bring discrimination proceedings, make an allegation of discrimination or give evidence about a complaint of discrimination and then you are treated badly as a result. For example, you give evidence at a hearing of a colleague’s age discrimination case. You then return to work and no one will speak to you. You apply for a promotion, for which you had the requisite qualifications and experience, but you are turned down

Harassment is when you are subject to behaviour that is intended to mistreat or humiliate you or to create an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for you be in. For example, you have recently started a new job where all your colleagues are much older than you. You have found it hard and have often asked for help. As a result they call you the ‘baby’ of the group and pretend to cry when you go to ask them something. They also never invite you to the pub on a Friday because you are ‘too young.’

What about retirement?

There is no longer a national default retirement age. Your employer may still be able to insist on a compulsory retirement age, but this will only be the case if it can be justified by the needs of the business. There may be a need to ensure a balanced age structure or to encourage younger candidates into the business.

If there is no compulsory retirement age, the normal law on unfair dismissal applies. The employer must ensure a fair procedure. The employer must show that the dismissal was for a reason relating to one of the following:

  • capability;
  • conduct;
  • redundancy;
  • statutory illegality (for example, expiry of a work permit or disqualification from driving when you are a truck driver); or some other substantial reason (for example, business reorganisation or break down of trust and confidence. ).

Note that if one of these reasons applies, your employer’s decision to dismiss will then be evaluated as to its reasonableness in circumstances. For more details see our page on unfair dismissal.

How do I finance a claim?

There are many ways in which claim can be financed. You may be entitled to Trade Union support. More promisingly, you may find on close examination of your household insurance policies that you benefit from legal expenses insurance – YEB barristers are expert at dealing with insurers.

What can I get?

If your claim is successful, the possibilities are:

  • A declaration of your rights
  • A recommendation regarding the action your employer should take to reduce the effect the discrimination has on you
  • Compensation (no maximum amount). This is particularly important if your employer dismisses you in a way that is found to be discriminatory. If you were to claim only unfair dismissal your claim would be limited to £74,000 or one year’s pay whichever is the lower. If your dismissal is an act of discrimination this does not apply.
  • Your compensation can include damages for injury to feelings.


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