Age Discrimination


No one should be treated differently at work because of their age, though many people are. Age discrimination affects many people at all stages of their working life, from recruitment to retirement. UNISON works to reduce age discrimination by raising awareness of the issue and campaigning for change.

People may be discriminated against because of their age. Young people may be belittled, passed over for jobs or paid poor wages just because they are young, and older people may be denied jobs or refused work because an employer believes they are too old.

The 2010 Equality Act combines previous discrimination and equality laws in a single act.

Discrimination because of a person’s age is treated differently from other types of discrimination because the law allows employers to discriminate because of a person’s age in a wider range of situations,  if the employer can show that what it has done is justified. This is called “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.

For example, a construction firm might be able to set a maximum age for jobs that are physically demanding and require a high level of fitness.

There are a number of exceptions to age discrimination legislation.

    • Benefits based upon length of service.

It is not age discrimination for an employer to provide certain benefits, facilities or services based on length of service.

This is subject to the qualification that after five years service, the employer will have to show that usinglength of service fulfils a business need – encouraging loyalty, for example.

    • Minimum wage.

It is not age discrimination to pay a young worker the lower minimum wages if that is the rate for which they qualify.

The same applies for apprentices who do not qualify for the national minimum wage as compared with those who do.

    • Redundancy.

It is not age discrimination to provide an enhanced redundancy payment that is greater than that paid to another employee, as long as that they are calculated on the same basis.

    • Insurance or related financial services.

It is not age discrimination for any employer to limit access to insurance or related financial services to those aged under 65 or the state pensionable age.

    • Child care.

It is not age discrimination to provide child care only for children of a certain age.

    • Contributions to personal pension schemes.

Certain age-based criteria are permitted in respect of occupational pension schemes.