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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.


Work related problem

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 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 you must notify the Labour Relations Agency. You will be offered early conciliation which can help you and your employer resolve the issue before you need to make a claim. 

4. If your complaint is still not resolved you can lodge a claim with the tribunals.  We may be able to provide you with legal representation. It is your responsibility to 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.


Useful publications


Time limits apply

Remember there are strict time limits for taking a case of age discrimination. Complaints on employment issues must be made to the tribunals within three months from the date of the discriminatory act. Even if you are attempting to resolve problems internally, the statutory time limits still apply.

If you wish to lodge a claim with the tribunals, you must first notify the Labour Relations Agency and discuss the option of early conciliation.  Potential claimants will not be able to proceed to tribunal without at least considering this option.  Your time limit is likely to be affected by this.

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.  You still need to contact the Labour Relations Agency before you lodge a claim out of time.

< 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

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: 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

Tribunal Rules

• The Industrial Tribunals and Fair Employment Tribunal (Constitution & Rules of Procedure) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020

Conciliation Rules - Employment: Dispute resolution

• The Industrial Tribunals and Fair Employment Tribunal (Early Conciliation: Exemptions & Rules of Procedure) Regulations (NI) 2020

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 about Gloria's story>

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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