UK: Age Discrimination

Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006These Regulations prohibit unreasonable discrimination against employees, jobseekers or trainees on grounds of age unless that discrimination can be objectively justified. Similar provisions were introduced for Northern Ireland. The Regulations have the same framework as other anti-discrimination legislative measures i.e. provisions on direct and indirect discrimination, victimization, harassment etc. It also covers discrimination on grounds of the apparent age of a person. It covers all age groups, not just older people. All workplace benefits based on age are prohibited. So too are training courses that are only available to certain age groups. The Regulations remove the existing age limits for unfair dismissal or rights on redundancy. The default retirement age is set at 65 but employers may set the retirement age at 65 or above. An employee, on approaching retirement age, may request to continue working beyond that age and the employer must give due consideration to this request. If granted, the employer may keep the extended employment under review. If the employer decides to terminate the extension he/she must give the employee 6 months notice. In that event, the employee may request another extended period and the employer again must give it due consideration. Unlike similar provisions on sex, race, sexual orientation etc. these Regulations do not cover age discrimination in the provision of goods and services.It is not illegal to discriminate on grounds of age in respect of employees, jobseekers or trainees where:• there is an objective justification for it e.g. it would be legitimate for an employer not to send an employee on a training course a few months before that person is due to retire;• an applicant for a job has reached, or will reach within 6 months, the normal retirement age set by the employer;• there is a legal exemption e.g. that related to young persons under the minimum wage legislation;• there is a genuine occupational qualification e.g. an actor required to play a character of a certain age.The Regulations prohibit harassment on grounds of age i.e. behaviour that is offensive, frightening or distressing. It does not matter whether or not there was an intention to harass, certain behaviour may amount to harassment e.g. telling ageist jokes all the time.

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