The Equality Act prohibits direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation on the grounds of age and applies to persons of all ages, both young and old.

Direct discrimination can occur where an individual or group is treated less favourably than others because of their age.


An employer believes that someone’s memory deteriorates with age. He assumes – wrongly – that a 60-year-old manager in his team can no longer be relied on to undertake her role competently. An opportunity for promotion arises, which he does not mention to the manager. The employer’s conduct is influenced by a stereotyped view of the competence of 60 year olds. This is likely to amount to less favourable treatment because of age.

Indirect discrimination can occur where an employer or education provider applies a criterion, provision or practice which disadvantages people of a particular age. 


If an employer were to advertise a position requiring at least five GCSEs at grades A to C without permitting any equivalent qualifications, this criterion would put at a particular disadvantage everyone born before 1971, as they are more likely to have taken O level examinations rather than GCSEs. This might be indirect age discrimination if the criterion could not be objectively justified.

Different treatment because of age can be justified as being a proportionate (that is, necessary and appropriate) means of achieving a legitimate aim (such as the protection of vulnerable groups or health and safety considerations).


A university puts an age limit on access to a particular programme.  This would be direct discrimination, unless the university could demonstrate that the age limit was objectively justified.

However, the legitimate aim cannot be related to age discrimination itself and must be based on hard evidence rather than assumptions - whether or not discriminatory treatment can objectively justified will depend on the individual circumstances of each case.

From April 2011 the default retirement age (DRA) is being phased out over a transitional period running until 5 October 2012. The last date on which an employee could be given notice of retirement under the transitional period was 5 April 2011.

The Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Team ( or tel: 0117 33 18087) can provide specific advice to colleagues on this area of equality, as it applies to staff and students.

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