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Age Discrimination at Work

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 20 Aug 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Age Discrimination Employment Employees

It is against the law for your employer to discriminate against you due to your age. This discrimination may be a refusal to employ you, or generally treating you worse than other employees due to your age (unless there is good reason to do so).

Age discrimination includes:

  • Being too young
  • Being too old
  • Combined with gender discrimination - against young women in their twenties due to a fear they will have children and take maternity leave
  • Discrimination by association - due to the age of someone you know, such as caring for an elderly relative or young child

The Law

It is illegal to discriminate against employees or potential employees due to their age (or of course gender, race or sexual orientation). This law applies to:
  • Those searching for work or applying for a new job
  • Those in work
  • Agency workers
  • Those seeking a reference from a previous employer

The law is applicable no matter how long you have worked for an employer, and the size of the company does not matter.

Your employer must also stop bullying in the workplace by other employees because of your age. If other employees are bullying or harassing you because of your age, even if in the form of a jest (e.g. Calling you 'Grandma'), you should tell your employer who must take action to prevent this.

Exceptions

There are exceptions to the law, as listed below:
  1. You are in the armed forces
  2. You are an unpaid volunteer
  3. Your employer has good reason to treat you differently or not employ you due to your age.

What is 'good reason'?

The law does not expressly define 'good reason' and so this depends upon common sense and can vary from business to business. However here are some examples of when discrimination may be allowed:

The potential employee is of ill-health (partially due to their age) - The issue is therefore health related (e.g. Working in a club which uses a lot of dry ice, when they clearly have breathing difficulties).

The potential employee is unable to perform the tasks required - in the job they have applied for (partially due to their age). The issue is therefore that they have applied for a job they are unable to fulfil (e.g. A role in a warehouse or construction site that requires a lot of manual lifting).

The potential employee is unable to fulfil the role - they have applied for without breaching other laws or regulations (due to their age). The issue is therefore that they are prevented from carrying out the role due to age restrictions. (e.g. A 16 year old can legally work, but cannot sell alcohol at a restaurant or bar if they will not be supervised).

The employer sets a requirement of needing previous experience. - Clearly this means that they will not then hire 16 / 17 year olds. This is allowed if necessary for the job (e.g. Running a legal department). However an employer cannot insist on an unnecessary amount of experience, as this would be discriminatory against younger employees.

Pay

The National Minimum Wage is set by the Government. This lists different minimum amounts of hourly pay, depending upon an employee's age. The National Minimum Wage changes annually (usually to increase with inflation). The current rates are:
  • Aged 25 and over - £7.50
  • Aged 21 to 24 - £7.05
  • Aged 18 to 20 - £5.60
  • Aged Under 18 - £4.05
  • Apprentices £3.50

Whilst the National Minimum Wage brackets are directly affected by your age, it is not discriminatory for your employer to pay you a lower amount than other, older employees, (as long as this amount is above the hourly minimum amount).

Job applications and interview

An employer can ask for your date of birth on an application form or during an interview. They cannot however refuse to employ you on the basis of your age, as this would be discriminatory (unless they have good reason as detailed above).

So why can they ask for your date of birth?

There can be many good reasons for needing to know your age. Lots of work places have regulations affecting your workers (eg alcohol sales, using hazardous machinery etc) so your prospective employer will need to know what requirements they will need in place for you. Employers may also want to know your age so that they can work out if there are any gaps in your education or employment which they may wish to ask you about.

Age discrimination and retirement

Your employer cannot dismiss you or force you to retire just because you have reached a certain age (e.g. 65 years) unless they have good reason for doing so. If they try to force you to retire without good reason, this would be age discrimination.

A scheme called the 'default retirement procedure' was in force until April 2011. This scheme cannot be used by employers anymore. However if your employer was already using the procedure, you may have been recently forced into retirement. If you turned 65 before 01/10/11 and your employer followed the 'default retirement procedure' including giving you notice by 05/04/11 that they wanted you to retire, this was not discriminatory. The latest date that you could have legally been forced to retire under this scheme was 05/10/12.

The law now states that your employer cannot force you to retire at a certain age. This will apply to most people, though there are some exceptions (e.g. Due to health and safety). Your employer should be able to clearly set out their reasons for forcing you to retire, so if you are unsure why you were made to retire, ask them to explain their reasons in writing.

Some employees choose to retire early. You are entitled to do so at any age, provided that you give your employer the amount of notice required in your contract. If you choose to retire early, you will not be entitled to any state pension until you reach the retirement age applicable to you (these vary based upon your year of birth). You may also not be entitled to any workplace pension payments until you reach the requisite age, but check the criteria for any workplace pension you have in place, as some do allow earlier payments if you retire early due to poor health.

Age discrimination and redundancy

If you are made redundant and have worked for your employer for over two years, you will be entitled to statutory redundancy pay. This is an amount of compensation set by law:
  • If you are under 22, you will get half a week's pay for each full year of employment with your current employer.
  • If you are aged 22 to 41, you will receive one week's pay for each full year of employment with your current employer.
  • If you are aged 41 or older, you will receive one and a half week's pay for each full year of employment with your current employer.

There is a redundancy pay calculator at www.gov.uk/calculate-your-redundancy-pay which will help you calculate your statutory redundancy pay entitlement.

If you have been made redundant and not worked for your employer for two years, you may be entitled to contractual redundancy pay. This is for an amount set by your employer in your contract. They may also offer those entitled to statutory redundancy pay a larger one-off payment.

You are entitled to any redundancy pay (statutory or contractual) regardless of your age; there is no upper or lower age limit for redundancy pay entitlement. Employers may however select employees for redundancy based upon how long employees have worked for them. Employers can't directly discriminate based upon age, but clearly if their process for redundancy selection is those who have worked for the shortest time period, this may disproportionately affect younger employees.

What to do if you think that you have been discriminated against

First of all, speak to the person / persons you feel have been discriminating against you. Particularly in the case of colleagues making jokes / comments, they may not realise how these have made you feel.

Always tell your manager about what has happened, and also contact your personnel department if you have one. Put this in writing and keep a copy. Your manager is required by law to prevent age discrimination against you by your colleagues, another manager or customers. If the person concerning you is your manager, you should tell someone higher up in the organisation.

If talking to your manager does not work, raise a formal written grievance. Your employer should have a procedure for raising grievances. At the same time, collect evidence to support your complaint. Evidence may include:

  • A record of the date, time and location of any incident
  • Copies of any written discrimination (letters / email)
  • A log of any witnesses to incidents

The Employment Tribunal

If you are unable to resolve the problem using your company's internal complaints handling procedure, you can take your employer to an Employment Tribunal.

An Employment Tribunal can:

  • Determine your rights
  • Award compensation (there is no upper limit on this)
  • Make recommendations to your employer

It is extremely important that you act swiftly if you wish to make a complaint to the Employment Tribunal. Even if you are using your company's internal complaints handling procedure, you have three months from the date of the last time you were discriminated against to make your claim.

To start your claim at the Employment Tribunal, you will need to fill in a ET1 form, or you can fill in the online version. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau will have copy paper forms and be able to assist you with your claim. The Employment Tribunal public enquiry line (0845 795 9775) will also be able to assist you and provide ET1 forms in alternative formats.

Age discrimination is a serious problem, so do not suffer in silence; speak to your employer and if necessary, refer your problem to the Employment Tribunal.

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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Marie - Your Question:
I have worked for a small charity,25-50 employees for 13 years, always as one of two people in my section, the other being the officer to whom I report. New contracts in December showed my contracted hours continuing to be 16.5 per week. The contract also showed my extra hours rate changing from flat rate to a rate of 1.5 times my flat rate. I queried thischange with the C E O. who told me that they wished to be a good employer and improve rates of pay. However despite averaging 6 hours per day Mon Tues Weds i.e 18 hours a week for at least two years, and much further back than that, since I objected that they had effectively cut my pay because I have not once been given more than 16.5 hours in a week since the contracts were signed, there has been no response to my objections, either by my manager or her manager.A suggestion was floated that I could work 18 hours a week for flatrate again, but this would mean that all other employees get 1.5 for extra hours but I would not. Can you advise me? Since I do the payroll I know that every other section is being authorised for overtime but we are not. I have lost out by about £120 per month.

Our Response:
There's not really much advice we can give you. Legally, your employer has not changed your contract without your consent and has in theory improved it. In practice, the change has not worked well for you. Does the reduction in overtime reflect the availability of work etc? You've been offered extra hours in your contract as a solution to your suggestion that it's unfair after all.We don't really have enough information to give comprehensive advice here but as overtime doesn't form part of a contract, it's unlikely that any employment laws have been breached.
SafeWorkers - 22-Aug-17 @ 12:27 PM
I have worked for a small charity,25-50 employees for 13 years, always as one of two people in my section, the other being the officer to whom I report. New contracts in December showed my contracted hours continuing to be 16.5 per week. The contract also showed my extra hours rate changing from flat rate to a rate of 1.5 times my flat rate. I queriedthischange with the C E O. who told me that they wished to be a good employer and improve rates of pay. However despite averaging 6 hours per day Mon Tues Weds i.e 18 hours a week for at least two years, and much further back than that, since I objected that they had effectively cut my pay because I have not once been given more than 16.5 hours in a week since the contracts were signed, there has been no response to my objections, either by my manager or her manager. A suggestion was floated that I could work 18 hours a week forflatrate again,but this would mean that all other employees get 1.5 for extra hours but I would not. Can you advise me? Since I do the payroll I know that every other section is being authorised for overtime but we are not. I have lost out by about £120 per month.
Marie - 20-Aug-17 @ 4:18 PM
Mrdene - Your Question:
I'm 62 and have no plans to retire.I have recently discovered that operations manager, junior in rank to me, has been discussing my retirement with a member of my team as part of his career progression.Is this permissible

An employer can't force an employee to retire unless there is a compulsory retirement age in its policy. A compulsory retirement age can only be in place if there is good reason such as physical ability required or your job has an age limit set in law. You should discuss these reports with your employer and ask them to take action if necessary. Our Response:
SafeWorkers - 28-Jun-17 @ 12:09 PM
I'm 62 and have no plans to retire. I have recently discovered that operations manager, junior in rank to me, has been discussing my retirement with a member of my team as part of his career progression. Is this permissible
Mrdene - 26-Jun-17 @ 8:24 PM
I'm 17 years old and was hired for a job 2 weeks ago as a telephone interviewer for a market research company. Through apllying for the job, the interview and the induction day it was never mentioned to me that I had to be 18. On the induction day before being contracted and put on the payroll, a supervisor took a photocopy of my passport and on my first shift we actually had a conversation about my age and again nothing was said about me being too young. I had my fifth shift last night. Today before my sixth I asked the policy on what we can wear and asked whether we can wear uniforms in work and another supervisor told me I had to be 18 for the job. What will happen, what can I do? Surely this is a fault of the company and not my own so I would receive compensation or be able to file unfair dismissal?
Indie - 7-Mar-17 @ 4:51 PM
My husband has been put on 'short term' working hours, he was given less than 3 hours notice. This is written in the contract. The director stated that the production team will ALL be working 3 days a week. It has now transpired this was a lie and he is the ONLY person in the whole workplace and the oldest (aside from the directors) to have hours cut. He has now been placed on 2 days a week, whilst everyone else works full time. He has worked with supporting another department where they have a casual worker who isn't on a contract. He's young and on minimum wage and they've kept him on yet this is a job my husband could do. He feels like he's been put out to pasture as the oldest member of staff. He's 49 years old. He's only been employed for 10 months so not entitled to any redundancy pay. This is a totally unfair situation but I guess employers can do what they want for 1 year 11 months! :(
OnAMission - 17-Feb-16 @ 8:37 PM
Al - Your Question:
I was interviewed last week my a large corp who I previously 4 years ago worked for nearly 4 years with a good track record. It's a sales/ business development role in capital equipment and software. I left them for a new higher salary. I took a 6 months out of employment to support someone though illness and had started to job hunt. The HR manager contacted me thro Linkedin and an initial interview was arranged with the Regional Manager. The interview went well I have done the roll before and was successful. It lasted 1 hr 20 mins and went very well. Near the end I was being breifed what the next steps would be and suggested the HR Manager spuld be back in touch in a couple of days. I was then asked my age, a straight question "what age are you" not wanting to lie or be seen as ova dive I told him 61. I am normally taken to be about 53/54. The interview then seemed to go a bit cold. I have been turned down.What are my rightsTa

Our Response:
An employer is allowed to ask you age/date of birth, but is not allowed to discriminate against you because of your age. If you feel you were turned down purely because of your age, follow the steps advised in the article from the section entitled "What to do if you think that you have been discriminated against" onwards.
SafeWorkers - 14-Jan-16 @ 10:17 AM
I was interviewed last week my a large corp who I previously 4 years ago worked for nearly 4 years with a good track record. It's a sales/ business development role in capital equipment and software. I left them for a new higher salary. I took a 6 months out of employment to supportsomeone though illness and had started to job hunt. The HR manager contacted me thro Linkedin and an initial interview was arranged with the Regional Manager. The interview went well I have done the roll before and was successful. It lasted 1 hr 20 mins and went very well. Near the end I was being breifed what the next steps would be and suggested the HR Manager spuld be back in touch in a couple of days. I was then asked my age, a straight question "what age are you" not wanting to lie or be seen as ova dive I told him 61. I am normally taken to be about 53/54. The interview then seemed to go a bit cold. I have been turned down. What are my rights Ta
Al - 13-Jan-16 @ 12:35 AM
michael - Your Question:
I am 15 and I have been searching for a weekend/holiday job for around 8ish months now but I have not had any luck at all. I have tried every local takeaway place, restaurants,book stores but I still haven't found anything. I believe that I am being discriminated against even though the type of job that I was applying for was just either delivering leaflets for the takeaway places or working on the shop floor in places whsmith which do actually say that they are allowed to hire 13-16 year olds.

Our Response:
Most employers prefer to employ those over 16. If you wanted to claim discrimation you would have to be able to prove that an employer was turning you down purely because of your age and that it was a role that could be given to 15 year olds.
SafeWorkers - 16-Nov-15 @ 12:59 PM
I am 15 and I have been searching for a weekend/holiday job for around 8ish months now but I have not had any luck at all. I have tried every local takeaway place, restaurants,book stores but I still haven't found anything. I believe that I am being discriminated against even though the type of job that i was applying for was just either delivering leaflets for the takeaway places or working on the shop floor in places whsmith which do actually say that they are allowed to hire 13-16 year olds.
michael - 14-Nov-15 @ 1:28 PM
Hi, I have worked for the same company for 11 years, without complaint or problem.Recently I went to a wrong location for a job which was around 2 miles out of my way.A colleague did the same but went 60 miles out of his way.I was sent to Occupational Health by my company to check my memory.I was found to be ok and was told I was fit enough to do my job.Early this week I was called into the office and because of this incident was either to be monitored for 3 months or take a £7000 payoff.When I asked if the other party was disciplined, I was given no reply. I opted to stay at work, is this legal, what are my rights in this respect? I also overheard one of the managers say to an outsider, whilst on site, that "You would have a job if it wasn't for him". I am 59 and very fit for my age, I have no physical barriers which prevent me from doing my job.
Bill.e - 12-Nov-15 @ 11:56 AM
@Mitzi. What kind of employment contract does she have?
SafeWorkers - 14-May-15 @ 10:35 AM
My daughter has been employed in a child care establishment after School and during holidays-since she was 14. When she reaches 16 she has been told that her employment will be terminated. Is this legal?
Mitzi - 9-May-15 @ 4:42 PM
@Pam. All employers are entitled to monitor absenteeism and to make decisions about the cost effectiveness of continuing employment with staff who spend a lot of time off sick. The organisation has sent you to O/H so they are obviously looking at ways to help as well. Why don't you simply ask what the procedure is and what your options are?
SafeWorkers - 6-Mar-15 @ 12:48 PM
I have worked for the BMA for just three years and I am nearly 60.I joined in Jan 2012 and in March 2012 I fell badly damaging my ankle, in the July I fell in the train station whilst on a work related project.Then in the December I fell on a work outing and partially dislocated my shoulder, Ive had flu twice and various bladder infections caused through kidney stones also newly diagnosed, resulting in 140 days off in 3 years which keeps getting raised at every opportunity.This year (ends 1st April) I have had 55 days.I work 4 days per week.It has now become apparent that they are finding fault with my work.I have had two appointments with the Centre Co-ordinator following my PPM review and I was frank in stating that there are no formal procedures in place for my role - I was taught in little pockets of 1:1 30 minute meetings.My experience isnt great most employees being there 10 years or more.my main query is can they keep reminding me of 3 years sick leave and now I have a document listing for example - Pam didnt track one email on 8th January (I tracked about 40 others and missed one)and various other minor things, which I feel are really trivial.No mention of what I can do well.I feel as if some sort of process has started without it being officially stated to me.They also have asked me to go to O/H again when Ive been back at work two weeks after 7 days off with a bladder infection causing incontinence, which is strange I feel.I would welcome your advice as some of the written statements in the document are incorrect, I havent been asked to sign it as a true record either.Many thanks for your help
Pam - 3-Mar-15 @ 9:15 PM
@leobaby. You need to sit down and talk about this with your line manager or if you're not comfortable about that, with a senior manager (or HR department). Do you have a trusted colleague in whom you could confide? They may be able to offer you some much needed moral support to get you back into the swing of things. If talking to your line manager does not work, and you feel you are being discriminated against because of your age, then make a formal complaint, citing the Equality Act 2010.
SafeWorkers - 20-Jan-15 @ 10:27 AM
I have been in my employment for almost 30 years. Last year a grievance was brought against me by another member of staff. The stress of this on top of personal issues contributed to a complete breakdown. I have returned to work, however I feel as though I am being treated differently. My company gives half a day off work for all its employees to do christmas shopping and it is planned in. My line manager completely forgot to plan me in, and whilst its only half a day its the principal as everyone else got there time. All the holiday forms were handed out early last year and again whilst I was away sick I did return in October. I had to ask my line manager to let me have a form. I received that form this week. It is 16 January 2015. All the other staff have there holidays booked. Two weeks ago I received a text from her telling me I needed to work one in four saturdays with immediate effect and then today I received another text telling me that I have to work one late shift a week Monday or Tuesday and which one would I prefer. No consideration for my current circumstances is being thought about. I am having counselling once a week for the way that work and other issues have affected me. I am being forced to do things I have no control over but its the way my line manager is going about it. I have been a work all week so why could she not discuss this with me at work. I feel unimportant enough without this attitude as well. I have done everything asked of me on my return to work and that included a retraining period. I was told there would be a weekly get together to see how things are going but that has happened once. I am so fed up I could cry. I feel discriminated against and treated like a fool but I am scared to rock the boat.
leobaby - 16-Jan-15 @ 1:12 PM
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