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Due to the Equality Act, age discrimination is against the law, in almost all cases.
On this page we’ll explain:
The Equality Act is a law which protects you from discrimination. It means that discrimination or unfair treatment on the basis of certain personal characteristics, such as age, is now against the law in almost all cases.
The Equality Act applies to discrimination based on:
You are protected from a number of different things under the Equality Act:
This is when you’re treated less favourably because of a protected characteristic; for example, if your local gym refuses to give you a membership because of your age.
This is when a good or service has criteria which have the effect of being discriminatory against a person because of a protected characteristic like their age. For example, if you can pay for an item in instalments but only if you are working, this would disadvantage retired people.
This is when you experience behaviour that makes you feel intimidated, humiliated, or degraded, or that creates a hostile environment. For example, if a nurse repeatedly makes offensive jokes about your age. This also applies to comments or jokes made about someone you associate with, such as a partner.
This is when you are treated unfairly as a result of making a complaint about discrimination, or giving evidence when someone else makes a complaint.
As well as the above, the Equality Act also means that public bodies, such as local authorities, hospital trusts and police authorities now have to prevent discrimination. This is called the Public Sector Equality Duty.
Public bodies must consider the needs of people with protected characteristics, including older people, when planning or carrying out their public duties or services. For example, if a local bus service is to be cancelled but it’s used a lot by older people to get to local health services, then this should be considered when the decision is made.
The Equality Act covers a wide range of different types of places and organisations. The law applies to places that provide goods or services, and it also covers employment matters too. That includes, for example:
Information about your consumer rights and exemptions to the Equality Act
Information about your healthcare rights under the Equality Act
Information about ageism at work and in recruitment
For more detail about the public sector equality duty on public services, see our factsheet.
The Equality Act 2010: The Public Sector Equality Duty (PDF 570 KB)
Age discrimination can be legal under certain circumstances. The Equality Act allows for age discrimination when it can be ‘objectively justified’. That means the employer or service provider must show that they have a good reason for discriminating on the basis of age.
For example, an employer could put an upper age limit on a job where very high levels of physical fitness are required and could not be fulfilled by someone older.
How you take action will depend on who your complaint is against but here’s a general guide of what you should do:
Step one: Find out about the complaints procedure for the organisation that you want to complain about. For example:
Step two: Send in details of your complaint, what happened, and when. Make it clear that you are complaining about age discrimination. It can also help to suggest solutions, for example, if you want an apology or the person responsible to be retrained.
Step three: If you’re unhappy with the response, you may have to go to the next step of the complaints procedure (for example, you may need to contact a head office, ombudsman, or tribunal) or seek some further advice if you’re not sure what to do.
Contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service for advice if you have experienced discrimination.
For more information:
Call Age UK Advice: 0800 169 2081
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