In order to provide complete functionality, this web site needs your explicit consent to store browser cookies. If you don't allow cookies, you may not be able to use certain features of the web site including but not limited to: log in, buy products, see personalized content, switch between site cultures. It is recommended that you allow all cookies.
 
 
How is our work influencing life in Northern Ireland and delivering equality? Learn more about our policy, legal and research work.
 
 

Age

Law reform

Law reform

What you need to know

Case studies

Consultation responses

 

Strengthening protection for individuals on grounds of age
 

Age Law reform
At present, age discrimination only applies to employment and training. The Equality Commission is recommending increased protection against discrimination for people on the grounds of their age by those providing goods, facilities, services, exercising public functions or by private clubs. We are also working to extend the law to cover not only the upper end of the age spectrum, but also the under 18s.

The Commission also recommends that legislation is introduced in Northern Ireland in order to keep pace with changes to the law in this area which came into effect in Great Britain in October 2012. In setting out our proposals (see below) we highlight what changes are required as well as the reasons why reform is necessary.

We have responded to OFMdFM's public consultation on its proposals to extend age discrimination to people aged 16 and over. Read our full response to these proposals (pdf)

Further information is available below:




Read more about our age case studies

Public consultation on extending age discrimination legislation to 16+ (closed 8th October 2015)

The Equality Commission welcomed OFMdFM's announcement of a full public consultation on its proposals to extend age discrimination legislation to people aged 16 or over. (The consultation closed on 8 October 2015)

The Commission is disappointed that OFMdFM's proposals will not include children and young people, whilst acknowledging that it is an advance on the equivalent legislation in Great Britain which applies only from the age of 18 upwards. However, it still leaves a wide band of children and young people without protection and we therefore continue to argue strongly that protection against age discrimination should apply to all ages.

The Commission has responded to the public consultation on OFMdFM's proposals to extend age discrimination to people aged 16 and over. Read our response in full:
 

Further information:
 

 

Conference on Age Law Reform proposals

In August we held a conference on OFMdFM's proposals for reform of age discrimination legislation in the provision of services. It provided an opportunity to discuss and debate the proposals and their strengths/shortfalls; and to refine views that might inform the public consultation.
 
Additional information:
 
 

Strengthening protection for all ages

  • Strengthening Protection for all Ages
The Equality Commission calls for the introduction of legislation that protects people of all ages against unlawful age discrimination and harassment when accessing goods, facilities and services. If introduced, this legislation will have a significant impact on addressing key inequalities which older people, young adults and children and young people face when accessing goods, facilities and services whether they are provided by the public, private and voluntary/community sectors. For example, when accessing health and social care, financial services (such as grants, loans, credit or finance or insurance) and other services (such as retail services or transport provision), or facilities for entertainment.

It is important that people of all ages do not receive an inferior service, or have access to a product, restricted simply on the basis of their age.  In our proposals for reform we have made it clear that everyone, regardless of their age, has the right to be treated fairly and have the opportunity to fulfil their potential.  

The Commission's full policy proposals are available in the report 'Strengthening Protection for All Ages: Ending age discrimination in the provision of goods and services':
 

 

  • Strengthening the rights of older people in the provision of goods facilities and services
Strengthening age discrimination legislation is in keeping with the overarching aims and objectives of the Executive’s Older People’s Strategy “Ageing in an Inclusive Society(pdf).  Notably, a key objective of the strategy is “to promote equality of opportunity for older people and their full participation in civic life and challenge ageism wherever it is found”.

The introduction of this legislation will help reduce social exclusion and improve active ageing and independent living by older people, through improved access to various services. By addressing the needs of older people in health and social care it will have a positive impact on a large number of older disabled people.

 
  • Strengthening the rights of children and young people in the provision of goods facilities and services
With regards to the inclusion of children and young people within the scope of the above legislation, the Commission considers that there is a robust case for strengthening the rights of children and young people against unlawful discrimination and harassment on the grounds of age in the provision of goods and services. We believe that the coverage of children and young people will not only promote children’s rights within Northern Ireland but also enable Northern Ireland to lead the way on an international stage on this issue.

The legislation should provide a clear legal framework within which providers can design, commission, and deliver age-appropriate services to children and young people, and ensure that there are no inappropriate or harmful barriers caused by age discrimination and that no age group is unjustly excluded from services.  It should also ensure that service providers, public bodies and others proactively examine whether the restriction of services to children and young people of certain ages is justifiable. This would build on and extend the responsibilities public bodies already have under Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 to have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity on the grounds of age when carrying out their functions.

This new legislation could help challenge negative stereotypes and prejudicial attitudes, as well as harassment and ageist behaviour towards children and young people by service providers and others. For example, as a result of stereotypical negative attitudes towards young people as anti-social trouble makers, their access to services is sometimes denied or restricted; this includes, being harassed by service providers because they are a young person, or being subjected to the indiscriminate access restrictions or unjustifiable use of Mosquito devices by a number of retailers .  In addition, there is clear evidence that children and young people experience difficulties in accessing age–appropriate health and social care services (including mental health services).

The Commission understands children of different ages have different needs and levels of maturity and it is essential that services are targeted to meet those needs. The legislation should allow for that and provide for treating them differently, where there are beneficial or justifiable reasons for doing so.  It could include specific exceptions, allowing service providers to take positive action to address disadvantage, for example, permitting age based concessions for children and young people.

The Equality Commission considers that its recommendations are clearly in line with the draft European Commission Directive to outlaw discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities  and services. The draft Directive did not contain an exception in this area excluding children and young people from protection against age discrimination.  The Equality Commission’s is also of the view that its recommendations are in line with the UK Government’s international obligations , including those under the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the approach adopted elsewhere.  For example, children and young people have been protected from age discrimination in the provision of goods and services in Australia since 2004 under the Age Discrimination Act 2004.

The Commission considers that its recommendations are in line with the current commitments set out in the OFMDFM Strategy for Children and Young People which pledges ‘a drive towards a culture which respects and progresses the rights of the child or young person’, and with the Executive’s proposals to improve the lives of children and young people through the Delivering Social Change Framework.

Equality Commission, 8 March 2013 (for the debate in the Northern Ireland Assembly, 11 March 2013)
 

Strengthening age discrimination legislation for older people

Strengthening age discrimination legislation for older people in the provision of services is in keeping with the overarching aims and objectives of the NI Executive’s Older People’s Strategy 'Ageing in an Inclusive Society' (pdf). Notably, a key objective of the strategy is “to promote equality of opportunity for older people and their full participation in civic life and challenge ageism wherever it is found”.

The introduction of this legislation will help reduce social exclusion and improve active ageing and independent living by older people, through improved access to various services. By addressing the needs of older people in health and social care it will have a positive impact on a large number of older disabled people.

 

  • Latest research on barriers, negative attitudes and potential discrimination

Our publication 'Strengthening protection for all ages against age discrimination outside the workplace' (pdf, 2014) supports our proposals for law reform and demonstrates how gaps in current age equality legislation impact on the everyday lives of older people. It sets out a range of case studies to highlight examples of potential age discrimination experienced by older people when accessing health and social care, financial services and other services such as retail. The report also illustrates examples of the general barriers and negative attitudes experienced by older people when accessing services.

In 2008 we commissioned a report Older People's Access to Financial Services (pdf), highlighting some of the problems faced by older people when accessing financial services. The report identified a number of areas of concern including: age limits being applied on car and travel insurance and credit and consequent debt problems with people from lower socio economic groups often being pushed to less well regulated sources.

NOTE: Proposals for exceptions to age discrimination in goods, facilities and services often rely on citation of actuarial factors. This means factors such as the age, sex, and disability level distribution of the population and any other relevant factors that have a significant effect on the level of utilisation and cost of services. Differences in premiums and benefits would have to be based on the use of age as a factor in the assessment of risk based purely on relevant and accurate actuarial and statistical data; compiled, published and regularly updated in accordance with guidance issued by the Treasury and any differences would have to be proportionate with regard to that data.

 

Strengthening protection for children and young people

The Equality Commission and the NI Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY) believe that people of all ages, including children and young people, should be protected against unlawful age discrimination and harassment when accessing goods, facilities and services, for example, health care, education or financial services.

The Commission welcomes that there is to be a full and public consultation on OFMdFM's announcement to extend age discrimination legislation to people aged 16 or over. We are disappointed that this will not include children and young people; excluding under 16's from the legislation will leave them with no protection against age discrimination and could affect many vulnerable young people's ability to access services.
 
  • We recognise that there are situations in which it is appropriate to treat adults and children differently
We recommend that the law should allow for that and provide for treating them differently, where there are good, justifiable reasons for doing so. The law should also include a number of specific exceptions.
 
  • Legislation should provide a clear legal framework
The law should provide a clear framework within which providers can design, commission and deliver age-appropriate services to children and young people. It should ensure that there are no inappropriate or harmful barriers caused by age discrimination and that no age group is unjustly excluded from services. Service providers, public bodies and others proactively examine whether the restriction of services to children and young people of certain ages is justifiable. This would build on and extend the responsibilities public bodies already have under Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act to have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity on the grounds of age when carrying out their functions.
 
  • Children of different ages have different needs
We understand that children of different ages have different needs and levels of maturity and it is essential that services are targeted to meet those needs. The legislation should allow for that and provide for treating them differently, where there are beneficial or justifiable reasons for doing so. It could include specific exceptions, allowing service providers to take positive action to address disadvantage, for example, permitting age based concessions for children and young people.
 

View our full policy proposals on Strengthening Protection for Children and Young People:
 
Our recommendations for reform were informed by a range of considerations, including an expert paper from Robin Allen QC and Dee Masters BL: In the matter of the rights of children and young people and proposed legislation in Northern Ireland to protect against age discrimination in the provision of goods facilities and services (April 2013):
 
 

Submission to UNCRC Joint Committee on Human Rights: Inquiry on UK's Record on Children's Rights

 
The Commission’s key recommendation is that NI Executive introduces as a matter of urgency age discrimination legislation in the provision of goods, facilities and services that protects people of all ages, including children and young people. The Commission is awaiting the outcome on policy content of the proposed legislation, following OFMDFM’s consultation that ended last October.
 
 


Latest research on barriers, negative attitudes and potential discrimination
The report 'Strengthening protection for all ages against age discrimination outside the workplace' pdf (March 2014), contains older people's experiences of barriers, negative attitudes and potential discrimination. It supports our proposals and demonstrates how gaps in current age equality legislation impact on the everyday lives of older people.

Have you a story to share about your experience of age discrimination when trying to use services or facilities?


< Law reform
< Addressing inequality
 
Why age law reform is needed - real stories

The following case studies demonstrate why reform of age equality legislation is needed. They illustrate how older people are being affected by a lack of protection when accessing of goods, facilities and services.   



Mary's Story

Loss of a health care service when transitioning to services for older people
 
Health care
Mary who is blind, a diabetic and receives dialysis for kidney failure has been provided with a home care package for the past 15 years.  On turning 65 she was transferred from the sensory support team for the blind to the social work team for the elderly. After assessment she was informed that whilst she needed help with some tasks they would be unable to provide any services due to limited resources available.

Read more about Mary's story>



Alaistair's Story

Quoted excessively travel insurance premiums and wide variations between providers


Alaister
Alastair (who is 68 years old) applied to renew his existing annual worldwide travel insurance policy and was quoted a significant increase in his premium. At the age of 56 he had surgical heart operation and is on regular medication for his heart condition. He was informed by his insurance provider that there had been a change of insurance underwriter resulting in significant rise in their premiums for a number of older people.

Read more about Alaistair's story>



Martin's Story

Lack of respect when accessing retail services


Pharmacy

Martin, who is in his eighties, was collecting his prescription from the high street pharmacy when he was approached by a female assistant in her early thirties who asked him for his name, age and address. Martin asked for an explanation and was informed “we are just testing your mental faculties”. 

Read more about Martin's story>
Martin, who is in his early eighties, regularly collected his prescription from a leading high street pharmacy. On one particular occasion as he went to collect his medication he was approached by a female shop assistant in her early thirties, who began asking him about his age, address, name, etc. Martin asked for an explanation in which the employee responded with a laugh “we are just testing your mental faculties”. This response was met with laughs from other employees behind the counter and Martin was “so embarrassed about the whole thing”. Martin was also aware that other customers in the shop could hear the exchange which added to the embarrassment.
When he returned home Martin phoned the chemist to ask for an explanation and to convey his anger about what he experienced. The pharmacist herself answered the phone. She apologized and said “it was only a bit of fun and was surprised he took it this way”. Martin was then contacted by the assistant manageress and was given a telephone number in England to make a complaint. Martin persisted and eventually spoke to the manageress of the chemist where the incident took place and who agreed to meet with him. When they met, the manageress had temporarily lost her voice and consequently ‘mimed’ throughout the conversation.
Martin eventually received a letter of apology and a gift voucher for twenty pounds. However he was dissatisfied with this response and telephoned the number in England he had been given. He made a formal complaint and was told this would be investigated further. Martin has received no further contact or information from the pharmacy about this incident and he remains angry about being subject to such treatment: “I feel like I’ve been treated like an absolute fool”.
 


Have you been unfairly treated?

If you have experienced age discrimination when trying to access services or facilities we want to hear from you.

Sharing your story will help us to show how this discrimination is affecting our society, and may help us to deliver a fairer and better Northern Ireland for everyone.


 
 
Print All