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Unsure of your equality rights or the law? We can provide advice and assistance for people who feel they have been discriminated against.
 
 

Age

Work related problem

What you need to know

How we can help

The Legislation

Case Studies

 

Have I been discriminated against because of my age?

If you have been treated unfairly because of your age, this may be unlawful discrimination. 

Age discrimination applies regardless of age and only in employment and occupation, further and higher education and vocational training.

The law does not extend to those who provide services to the public. However, those that provide employment related services to the public such as employment agencies are covered by the law.

If as a result of your age you are treated worse that another person in a similar situation, you can challenge the treatment under age discrimination law.

Is all age discrimination the same?

No. There are different types of age discrimination, and it doesn’t have to be intentional to be unlawful.

The main forms are:

 

  • Direct discrimination is where you are treated worse that others because of your age. For example:  A 50 year old applicant, despite being the best candidate for the job, is not appointed because the employer feels that they would not “fit in” with other staff members are younger.
     
  • Indirect discrimination is where an organisation unjustifiably operates a rule or policy that looks the same for everyone but in effect places people from a particular age group at a disadvantage.
For example: A job advertisement for a post of assistant solicitor states that a minimum of five years post degree qualification experience is required for a vacancy.  This criterion is applied to all applicants, however given the time that it takes to get the relevant qualification and experience, applicants under 26 years of age are unable to apply for the post. By placing this criterion on the job (minimum experience requirement which cannot be objectively justified) persons aged 26 and under are placed at a disadvantage compared to other persons (those over 26 years).
 
  • Harassment is where a person behaves in a way, on grounds of age, which violates your dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. For example: A young manager, recently appointed in a company receives comments from older employees such as ‘you are wet behind the ears’ and ‘will need to work harder and faster to compensate for your age’.
     
  • Victimisation is where you have made a complaint of age discrimination, in good faith or helped someone else with a complaint under the age law, and suffered as a result.
For example: An older employee complains to management that she has been subjected to ‘ageist’ remarks from younger colleagues.  A short time after the initial complaint she is disciplined for poor performance and believes this is directly linked to her complaint as there have never been any problems with her work before.
 

How common is this?

Over the past three years we have helped more than 860 people who have experienced some form of age discrimination.

We have helped individuals with such issues as:

 

  • Failure to appoint
  • Harassment
  • Failure to shortlist
  • Dismissal
  • Retirement
 

How am I protected against age discrimination?

You are protected against age discrimination in employment including:

 

  • Applying for a job
  • Terms and conditions of a job
  • Opportunities for training / promotion
  • Access to benefits
  • Disciplinary / grievance procedures
  • The working environment
  • Dismissal / redundancy
  • Job references
  • Attendance at institutions of further and higher education.

 

However, there are some circumstances when age discrimination is not unlawful including:
 

  • In direct and indirect age discrimination, if an employer demonstrates their action is a ‘proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’, their treatment will be justified. For example: making special provisions for younger workers in order to protect their safety and welfare.
  • Retirement. Employers can set a compulsory retirement age if they clearly justify it. Unless it can be objectively justified, it is no longer permissible to dismiss someone on grounds of age alone. Older workers can voluntarily retire at a time they choose, and it is an employee’s responsibility to discuss when and how to retire with the employer.
  • Genuine occupational requirement (GOR) – where belonging to a particular age group is essential for the job. For example: A film company making a film of Oliver Twist may lawfully apply a GOR to hire a young boy to play Oliver.
 

What are my options?

1. Contact our Discrimination Advice Officers who will provide you with free and confidential information and guidance to help you resolve your issue.

2. Raise your complaint directly with your employer and seek a resolution.

3. If a resolution is not reached and you wish to take your case further we may be able to provide you with legal 
    representation. You must lodge your complaint of discrimination with the tribunal.

Only a tribunal decides whether the treatment you have complained of is unlawful discrimination. It is separate to, and independent from, the Equality Commission.
 


Contact us
If you require assistance or would like to make a discrimination complaint, complete our online form or telephone 028 90 500 600 (10am-4pm, Mon-Fri).

 

Useful publications

Publications (in pdf format) relevant to age discrimination in employment:

 
You can also visit our publications database
 
 

Time limits
Remember there are strict time limits for taking a case of age discrimination. Complaints on employment issues must be made to the tribunal within three months less one day from the date of the discriminatory act.

If your time limit has expired the tribunal has discretion to extend the time for you to lodge your claim. This is used sparingly and it is unwise to assume that an extension will be granted.



< Work related problem

 
Ask for advice
If you require information or advice please complete our online form. All information you submit is confidential – and if you wish to be contacted by us, please let us know the best way for you. You don’t have to share any personal information with us – we will not be able to identify you if that is your preference.



Make a discrimination complaint
We may be able to provide you with legal assistance. If you want to find out more, please use our discrimination complaint form complaint form to tell us the nature of your discrimination complaint and whether it is related to your age, disability, gender, race, religious belief/political opinion or sexual orientation.

Tell us what happened and we will contact you to talk through your complaint further.
 

Equality Commission NI
Alternatively, contact us:

Telephone: 028 90 500 600
Textphone: 028 90 500 589
Fax: 028 90 248 687
Email: information@equalityni.org

Address:
Equality House
7-9 Shaftesbury Square
Belfast  BT2 7DP

 
We have listed below current legislation relevant to age discrimination.  You should note that equality and anti-discrimination law may be changed or updated.  The law is also complex and can require interpretation.  Please feel free to contact our discrimination advice team if you need clarification or guidance on what the law means. Email: discriminationadvice@equalityni.org or tel:  028 90 500 600.


Age Discrimination Law

Main law:

 

• Employment Equality (Age) Regulations (NI) 2006

 

Amending laws:
 

• Employment Equality (Age) (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 2006

• Employment Equality (Age) (Amendment No.2) Regulations (NI) 2006

• Employment Equality (Age) (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 2009

• Employment Equality (Age) (Repeal of Retirement Age Provisions) Regulations (NI) 2011

 

European Union law:
 

  • Directive 2000/78/EC - equal treatment in employment on grounds of religion and belief, disability, sexual orientation, age




 

 

 
 
Gloria's Story
Age discrimination case
 
 
Terry's Story
Age discrimination case
 
 
Anna's Story
Age discrimination case
 
 

Gloria Dunbar had worked as a security manager for Dunnes Stores on a full-time permanent basis since 2005 and had 23 years’ experience working in security roles in various stores. When Gloria passed age 60 she was placed on a series of fixed term renewable contracts until 2014, when her contract was terminated at the age of 63.

Gloria alleged that she was discriminated against on grounds of her age and settled the case against her employer with the support of the Equality Commission NI. The company, in settling the case for £40,000, did not accept that it acted in breach of equality legislation. Dunnes Stores reaffirmed its commitment to the principles of equality and agreed to liaise with the Equality Commission in relation to the development of its policies, practices, training and procedures on equality of opportunity and, in particular, on age discrimination.

Read more>

Read more of our case decisions and settlements

 
Terry's Story

Terry McCoy made history in 2008 when he became the first person in Northern Ireland to successfully take an age discrimination case to tribunal.  He was awarded £70,000 in compensation.

Terry, helped by the Commission, took a complaint of age discrimination, against James McGregor & Sons Ltd. Then aged 58, with over 35 years experience as a carpenter and specialised wood salesman, he applied for a new sales position with the company.  The advertisement stated that the employer wanted someone with ‘youthful enthusiasm’.  During the interview the panel made constant reference to his age and he was asked if he had ‘the drive and motivation’ for the post.  He didn’t get the job and he felt that it was solely because of his age and not because he wasn’t a strong candidate.

Read more of our case decisions and settlements

 
Anna's Story

Anna, aged 50, was employed for three years as a shop manager at Summers Dry Cleaners in Cookstown.  In 2010 an industrial tribunal found that she had been discriminated against and harassed on grounds of her age.  The tribunal agreed that her employer’s fixation about her age and ageist remarks were discriminatory.  She was awarded compensation of £5,867.

Sometime after winning her case Anna was dismissed.  A second tribunal ruled that the dismissal was unlawful victimisation prompted by her taking an age discrimination complaint.  She was awarded a total of £24,147 for the second case.  [The law protects people from victimisation if they are treated badly for complaining about discrimination.]

Read more of our case decisions and settlements


 

 
 

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