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Age Discrimination

Law preventing age discrimination came into force in the UK in October 2006. It is a common misunderstanding that it only applies to retirement and older workers. In fact it applies to workers of ALL ages.

In general, the important point of the legislation is that employers should not make assumptions about their staff, or job applicants on the basis of their age.

As indicated above, this law covers workers throughout their employment; from the point of applying for a job, terms of employment, through to access to training, promotion, and to termination of their employment. Like other anti-discrimination law, the prohibition of age discrimination protects not just employees, but also other contract workers, office holders, and partners within a business partnership, as well as job applicants. This law also prohibits “ direct” discrimination, i.e. less favourable treatment of a particular person because of his or her age; "indirect" discrimination, i.e. the employer applies a particular provision, criterion or practice which pits people of the employee’s age to a particular disadvantage and includes the employee him or herself; victimisation; and harassment.

There were originally specific procedural rules on retirement, which if followed correctly would avoid a claim of unfair dismissal from a former employee. (see pay as you go link). There are also specific rules on service-related benefits, which must be carefully considered by employers if they are to avoid claims of age discrimination. The retirement provisions have been repealed, so retirement itself is no longer effectively automatically a fair dismissal. In the majority of cases employers and employees are expected to arrange to discuss and plan for retirement so that there is no unilateral decision to terminate employment automatically at a set "retirement age". Employers do need to operate a fair and open system when dealing with retirement in order to avoid allegations of age discrimination.  Employers should address issues of discrimination through an Equal Opportunities Policy (see pay as you go link), and ensure all relevant managers are trained to correctly implement such a policy.


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