Q&A for Age Discrimination

Site updated on February 17, 2020

Answers to some Questions

1. Who does the age discrimination law cover?

All workers including self employed, contract workers, office holders, the police and members of trade organisations.

People who apply for work and, in some instances, people who have left work.

People taking part in or applying for employment related vocational training including all courses at Further Education and Higher Education institutions.

2. Who isn’t covered by the regulations? 

  • Members of the regular armed forces, full-time and part-time reservists.
  • Unpaid volunteers.

3. What does vocational training cover? 

All forms of training and retraining courses, practical work experience and guidance that contributes to employability, training provided by employers or private and voluntary sector providers, vocational training provided by further and higher education institutions and adult education programmes.

4. What do the regulations cover? 

  • They cover direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation.
  • Employers can be held responsible for the actions of employees in all four situations.

5. Are there any circumstances when treatment on grounds of age will be lawful? 

Exemptions will be allowed where there is an  Occupational Requirement and if there is an objective justification. (For example restictions on serving alcohol or driving an HGV.)

The ‘test of objective justification’, means employers will have to show with evidence that they are pursuing a legitimate aim and that it is an appropriate and necessary (proportionate) means of achieving that aim.
The legislation will protect individuals or companies who are forced to discriminate on age grounds in order to comply with other legislation e.g. bar staff serving alcohol must be at least 18.


There may also be a statutory defence, such as redundancy pay calculation or minimum wage payments; these are subject to regulations which still include age as a factor.

6. If an employees’ pay and benefits vary according to length of service, can this continue? 

Benefits based on a length of service requirement of 5 years or less, the ‘5 year exemption’, will be exempted and will be able to continue.
After the 5-year exemption, employers must show that there will be an advantage from rewarding loyalty, encouraging the motivation or recognising the experience of workers by awarding benefits on the basis of length of service.

7. How does the legislation impact on the National Minimum Wage? 

Employers will be able to follow the age bands and minimum wage levels used in the national minimum wage legislation.

8. What should I know about the default retirement age? 

The default retirement age was removed in 2011. You are now entitled to retire when you wish to; unless your Employer can justify retiring staff at a particular age.

This is not the same as Statutory Pension age – the date at which you become eligible for a State Pension.

Seek advice if you have concerns.

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