In order to comply with the European Directive, the Government has introduced regulations relating to Age Discrimination effective from the 1st October 2006 and the Equality Act 2010.
Employers need to be mindful that Age Discrimination can take many forms and not just affect specific age groups.
The Regulations cover employment and vocational training. The regulations cover people of all ages so employers need to ensure that their policies in relation to recruitment, training, employment benefits, as well as retirement, comply with the legal requirements.
The regulations prevent both direct and indirect discrimination. In addition, employees may bring claims for harassment and victimisation because of their age. These regulations have an unusual potential defence of 'justification'. An employer has to show that they could objectively justify their action in the pursuit of a lawful aim or the measures taken were a proportionate response to achieve that legitimate aim. This defence may be one that could be used in relation to health and safety issues within the workplace.
In line with the age discrimination laws, any employer who wishes to set a compulsory retirement age will have to show a good reason to justify it. Employees will be able to potentially bring a claim for both unfair dismissal and age discrimination, should they be forcibly retired them without good reason.
All employees, regardless of their age can bring a claim for unfair dismissal although the two year qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims remains. In addition, all employees will be entitled to redundancy pay, in the event that they are made redundant (on the condition that they have over two years' service).