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Who is covered by the age provisions of the Equality Act?

Age and the Law section image - justice symbol scales

Who has the right?

1. In employment

  • Employees and ex-employees
  • Self employed
  • Office holders (for example company directors)
  • Contract and agency workers
  • Job applicants
  • Former employees

2.  In education

  • Applicants of adult education and training
  • Students of adult education and training
  • Former studies of adult education and training

3. Other areas

  • People using career guidance services
  • People applying for professional qualifications
  • Members of Trade Unions or other professional bodies
  • Members of occupational pension funds

What is covered?

1. Recruitment
Under the legislation employers are generally not allowed to refuse to
hire someone because of their age.

2. Redundancy
It is unlawful for employers to use age as a factor when selecting
redundancies, unless the employer can justify this. (See below)

3. Unfair dismissal
People over the age of 65 can make claims for
unfair dismissal.

4. Retirement
If your employer retires you on the ground of age you may have a claim for age discrimination and/or unfair dismissal. The strength of that claim will depend on all the circumstances.

5. Training
If you are completing work-related training whether you are employed or
not you may make a claim for age discrimination if someone discriminates
against you.

6. Education
If you are enrolled in higher education or any other education which provides
you with relevant skills for work, you are covered by this legislation.

Where can age discrimination be justified?
There are some situations  where an employer or training provider may be permitted to discriminate on the grounds of age. To do this, however, they must show, with evidence, that the discrimination is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. Put simply, this means that the aim they are trying to achieve could not be achieved in any less discriminatory way and the benefits of achieving the aim outweigh the harmful effects of the discrimination.

It is up to the tribunal to decide what they consider to be proportionate in the circumstances.

There are some limited exceptions to this which allow employers or training providers to discriminate on the grounds of age without the need for justification, although they may still be open to challenge on them. 

These include:

  • Benefits linked to length of service.
  • Where there is a genuine requirement for a person of a certain age, for example in an acting job.
  • Where the law stipulates an age requirement. For example in an establishment which serves alcohol and therefore requires staff of 18 years and over.
  • Where the employer relies on the National Minimum Wage, and therefore is allowed to pay differently aged workers different pay based on the legal framework.

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.