Skip to content
Please donate

The Equality Act

Due to the Equality Act, age discrimination is against the law, in almost all cases.


What is the Equality Act?

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:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Sex
  • Gender reassignment
  • Disability
  • Religion or belief
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marriage or civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity

How does the law protect me from age discrimination?

You are protected from a number of different things under the Equality Act:

Direct discrimination 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.
Indirect discrimination 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.
Harassment 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.
Victimisation 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.


In what situations does the Equality Act apply?

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:

Consumer services

Shops
Hotels
Leisure
facilities

Health services

Your doctor’s surgery
Hospitals
Dentists

Information about your healthcare rights

Employers

Your treatment in the workplace
When you apply for a job

Information about ageism at work

Public service Local council services
Transport
Housing associations

Find out more about the Equality Act

Download our factsheet about Equality, discrimination and the Public Sector Equality Duty.


Is age discrimination ever allowed?

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.


What do I do if I have been illegally discriminated against?

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:

  • If it’s your employer, you may wish to talk to your manager, your union or HR
  • If it’s a shop or hotel, you may need to contact the manager or customer services
  • If it’s your GP surgery, ask to see a copy of their complaints procedure

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.


What do I do next?

Equality Advisory and Support Service

Contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service for advice if you have experienced discrimination.

For more information call Age UK on 0800 055 6112

Last updated: Oct 25 2017

Become part of our story

Sign up today

Back to top