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Age discrimination

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On 1st October 2006, a new law – The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 – came into force in England, Wales and Scotland (similar legislation is in force in Northern Ireland).

The Regulations provide protection against age discrimination in employment, training and adult education, for people of all ages. These have been introduced because there's a need for age-related employment equality in the same way as we already have equality for sex, race, disability, sexual orientation and religion or belief.

The Government’s new age discrimination laws give individuals important new rights, extend existing rights and removes traditional barriers. The new laws help ensure that people are no longer denied jobs or harassed because of their age, and in most cases, workers of all ages will have an equal chance of training and promotion.

Understanding the new procedures

The current upper age limit for unfair dismissal and redundancy rights is being removed, meaning older workers will get the same rights to claim unfair dismissal - or to receive a redundancy payment - as younger workers.

Employees will have a legal right to request to work beyond their compulsory retirement date, which employers will have a duty to consider. Employers must also give workers at least six months’ notice of their retirement date.

The law recognises that differences of treatment on the grounds of age can sometimes be justified.  For example, it may be necessary to make special provisions for younger or older workers in order to protect their safety and welfare. However, employers will need to ‘objectively justify’ exemptions to the regulations by providing real evidence to support any claim.

What do the regulations mean?

For example it will be unlawful to use age as a reason:

  • not to employ someone;
  • to dismiss them; 
  • to refuse to provide them with training;
  • to deny them a promotion;
  • to give adverse terms and conditions.

Why does this affect agencies?

Put simply, where an employment agency accepts discriminatory instructions from its clients, both the client and agency would be liable.

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