What kind of age-related discrimination am I protected from?

The Equality Act 2010 prohibits both direct and indirect discrimination. It is unlawful, unless objectively justified, for an employer to directly discriminate on grounds of age. This outlaws, for example, treating someone less favourably because of their age by:

  • deciding not to employ them;
  • dismissing them;
  • turning them down for promotion;
  • refusing to give them training; or
  • giving them less favourable contractual terms (e.g. holiday rights or travel benefits).

Compulsory retirement is a type of age discrimination. Employers are no longer allowed to force employees to retire at 65, or any other age, unless there is a contractual retirement age in place that can be objectively justified by the employer.

Indirect age discrimination occurs where employment selection criteria, employers’ policies, collective agreements, benefit arrangements or any other practices impact adversely on workers of one age group in comparison with another. Unless the employer can show that the indirectly discriminatory practice is objectively justified, it will be unlawful. For example, rejecting a candidate for a job because they are ‘overqualified’ may indirectly discriminate against older workers who are more likely to have experience or qualifications, and may not be found to be justifiable.

The Equality Act 2010 also ban employers from giving an unfair reference for someone because of age bias, or victimising anyone who complains of age discrimination or gives evidence in support of a complaint made by a colleague. You will also be protected if you refuse to carry out an instruction by your employer to discriminate on grounds of age against a colleague.

An employer will be liable for discriminatory actions taken by anyone acting on their behalf, such as a line manager, unless the employer can show that they took reasonable steps to prevent the age discrimination occurring.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.