The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 make it unlawful to discriminate against individuals on the grounds of their age.
Under the Regulations there are 4 types of discrimination:
1. Direct discrimination – occurs where, because of age, A treats B less favourably than he treats or would treat other persons.
Crucially, unlike other protected characteristics such as sex, race etc, there will be no direct age discrimination where A can show that his treatment of B is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
2. Indirect discrimination - occurs when there is a requirement or condition which is applied to everyone in the same way, but which has a greater adverse effect on people of a certain age. Indirect discrimination can be justified by an employer as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
For employees, it is important to note that, as with other forms of discrimination, there are strict time limits for lodging Industrial Tribunal proceedings for age discrimination – 3 months from the date of the alleged act, or in the case of a continuing act of age discrimination; 3 months from the date of the last act. These deadlines are extremely strict and it is therefore vital that legal advice is sought at the earliest opportunity.
Employers should be aware that they can be held liable for acts of age discrimination committed by their employees in the course of their employment. It is irrelevant whether the employer knew of, or gave approval to, the alleged acts of discrimination.
It can be a defence for an employer to prove that it took such steps as were reasonably practicable to prevent the employee in question from committing the alleged acts of age discrimination.
There are some exceptions under the Regulations ie where differentiating between individuals on the basis on age will not constitute unlawful discrimination, namely in relation to: payment of the NMW, the calculation of certain benefits which are based on length of service, and the provision of enhanced redundancy payments to employees.
If you have any queries about age discrimination, from either an employee or an employer point of view, please do not hesitate to contact us.