As is the case with gender, religion, race, sexual orientation and disability, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership and gender reassignment, under the Equality Act 2010 it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate because of age. This would mean that a situation has arisen where one individual is treated less favourably than another because of his or her age.
There are some exceptions to the rule – for example, you need to be 18 to serve alcohol so it would be illegal to employ anyone under that age for a job serving in a bar. But these exceptions are rare and open to interpretation so advice should be sought to ensure you are operating within the law.
Discrimination on the grounds of age can be both direct and indirect. Particular caution must be shown in the language used when advertising for positions to avoid accusations of age discrimination and, for example, in the placement of advertisements in certain publications to ensure a level playing field is maintained.
Employers must ensure they have policies in place to avoid age discrimination in the areas of recruitment and selection; when setting pay; on providing training and development; when selecting candidates for promotion; in disciplinary and grievance procedure and to prevent victimisation.
From October 1st 2011 employers were no longer able to force employees to retire when they reached the default retirement age (DRA) of 65, meaning that people can retire when it is right for them.