The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against, harass or victimise a person because of their age in employment, higher education and the provision of recreational and training facilities.
The Act defines age by reference to a person’s age group and when it refers to people who share the protected characteristic of age, it means they are in the same age group.
A person could therefore belong to various age groups, for example a 19 year old could belong to groups that include ‘young adults’, ‘teenagers’, ‘under 50s’, ‘under 25s’ or ‘19 year olds’.
What does the Act cover in relation to employment?
The Act provides protection against discrimination, victimisation and harassment on the grounds of age throughout the whole employment relationship, including:
recruitment and selection
terms of employment
benefits provided during employment and on termination
access to training
dismissal (including redundancy)
post termination discrimination and harassment
The Equality Act 2010 will continue to allow employers to have a default retirement age of 65 until April 2011, after which time it will be phased out.
What does the Act cover in relation to Higher Education?
The Act makes it unlawful for the governing body of a HEI to discriminate against or victimise a person/student because of their age in any of the following ways:
in the arrangements it makes for deciding who is offered admission as a student
in the terms on which it offers to admit the person as a student
by not admitting the person as a student
in the way it provides education for the student
·in the way it affords the student access to a benefit, facility or service
·by not providing education for the student
·by not affording the student access to a benefit, facility or service
·by excluding the student
·by subjecting the student to any other detriment
What does the Act cover in relation to the provision of recreational or training facilities?
The Act provides protection against discrimination, harassment and victimisation on the grounds of age in the provision of recreational or training facilities, such as sports services or clubs. Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) should not discriminate against or victimise a person in:
·the arrangements it makes for deciding who is provided with the facilities
·the terms on which it offers to provide the facilities to the person
not accepting the person’s application for provision of the facilities
In addition HEIs should not harass a person who is seeking to access or accessing recreational or training facilities because of their age.
What types of discrimination does the Act refer to?
Within the Equality Act 2010 there are a number of ways that age discrimination can occur:
Direct discrimination occurs when a person is treated (or would be treated) less favourably than another person because of their age AND this treatment cannot be shown as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
Indirect discrimination occurs when a provision, criterion or practice is applied to all and it puts or would put a person or group with a protected characteristic, i.e. age, at a disadvantage when compared with another person or group AND this cannot be shown as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
Associative discrimination occurs when an individual is treated less favourably because they are associated with an individual of a particular age group.
Perceptive discrimination occurs when an individual is treated less favourably because they are perceived, correctly or incorrectly, to belong to a particular age group.
Victimisation occurs when a person is treated less favourably than others because they have:
brought proceedings under the Act;
given evidence or information in connection with proceedings under the Act
done any other thing for the purposes of or in connection with this Act
made an allegation (whether or not express) that there has been a breach of the Act
Protection is not afforded where the person has given false evidence or information or makes an allegation or has given evidence or information in bad faith.
Harassment, as defined by the Equality Act 2010, is unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic i.e. age, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual.
The Act also protects against third party harassment on the grounds of age. The University will therefore be liable for harassment of its employees by third parties, such as external contractors, unless they have taken reasonable steps to prevent it from happening. However, this liability will only apply if the University knows that the employee has been harassed on at least two previous occasions.
The University’s Code of Practice on age will be updated shortly.
Further information about the Equality Act 2010 and age discrimination can be found at the following websites:
The Equality Challenge Unit
The Employers Forum on Age
Goverment Equalities Office http://homeoffice.gov.uk/equalities/
Acas: Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1461
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