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Recruitment and the law

Age and the Law section image - justice symbol scales

The age provisions of the Equality Act make less favourable treatment on grounds of age in recruitment unlawful (direct discrimination).

They also outlaw imposing a provision, criterion or practice which is applied equally to all individuals but which puts people of a particular age or age group at a disadvantage when it comes to being recruited compared to people of another age or age group (indirect discrimination).

In both cases, however, if the employer can 'objectively justify' the treatment or the provision, criterion or practice it will not be considered unlawful.

Application forms and selection criteria
Application forms which request date of birth or a photograph may lead to, or give the impression of, decisions being made on the basis of age, whether those decisions are conscious or subconscious. It is not unlawful for an employer to request either of these, however.  This has not as yet been tested by case law.

Some employers who wish to monitor the diversity of the workforce and job applicants do request such information on a separate monitoring form, similar to race and ethnic origin monitoring forms.

Genuine occupational requirement
It is permissible to seek candidates of a particular age group only where it is established that being within that age group is a genuine occupational requirement of a particular jobs. For example, when an actor for a role needs to reflect the age of the person he or she is playing.

Take this quiz to test your knowledge of age, the law and recruitment.

Age, the law and recruitment

  1. It is unlawful to ask a job applicant for their date of birth. True or False
  2. It is unlawful to ask for a specific number of years of experience in a job advertisement. True or False
  3. It is unlawful to use words and phrases such as ‘youthful enthusiasm’, ‘creative’, ‘energetic’, ‘dynamic’, ‘mature’, in person specifications and job advertisements. True or False
  4. If you see an ‘ageist’ job advertisement, you can bring a claim even if you have not applied for the job. True or False
  5. It is unlawful to publish job advertisements online only. True or False
  6. The Equality Act makes it unlawful for employers to ask job applicants about their health or whether they have a disability except for in limited circumstances. True or False


  1. False (It is not unlawful but it may be unwise to do so)
  2. False
  3. False
  4. False
  5. False
  6. True

This site is for help and information only. It is not meant as an authoritative guide. It is not meant as an authoritative statement of the law, and future changes in the law and other programmes and initiatives could make it less accurate at times. TAEN, the Department for Work and Pensions and the European Social Fund take no responsibility for your use of the information. You should always take professional advice on any specific legal or financial matter.