Examples of Age Discrimination at Work

Anita North
National Head of Employment

Age discrimination at work isn’t always intentional but it is against the law to be treated unfairly at work because of your age.

However, it’s important to remember that just because an employer or colleague has made an assumption about you based on your age, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you were discriminated against.

If you think you’ve been treated unfairly at work because of your age, get in touch with our Employment Law Solicitors for confidential advice and support. We can look at your situation and tell you whether we think you’ve got grounds for an age discrimination claim.

Call us on 0808 258 3531 or request a callback

What is Age Discrimination?

Age discrimination is when you’re treated less favourably because of your age or because you’re part of a certain age group. It can be a one-off incident or happen on more than one occasion. It can also happen deliberately or unintentionally. For example, a new rule or policy that puts someone of a certain age at a disadvantage.

Age is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, along with 8 other characteristics including race, sex, gender reassignment and religion. It’s against the law to discriminate anyone because of one or more of these protected characteristics.

The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful for you to be discriminated against because:

  • You are of a certain age or part of a specific age group
  • It’s assumed that you're a certain age or part of a certain age group
  • You are associated with someone of a certain age or age group

Examples of Age Discrimination at Work

The Equality Act sets out four different types of age discrimination:

Direct Discrimination

This is when you are treated less favourably than another person because of your age. For example, if your employer lets a younger colleague complete some training but doesn’t let you complete the training because you’re older.

Indirect Discrimination

This happens when an organisation has a policy or rule in place that disadvantages a particular age group. For example, if a company requires staff to have held a driving licence for 10 years. While this may seem like a reasonable requirement for a role that requires driving experience, it could unfairly disadvantage younger drivers who still have experience of driving safely and reliably.


If someone makes you feel intimidated, degraded or humiliated at work because of your age, this is harassment. One example might be a colleague repeatedly making jokes about how slow an older colleague is with technology. Even if this is played off as banter, it’s important to remember that your feelings are valid and you have the right to be respected at work.


This is when you’re treated less favourably because you made a complaint about age discrimination at work or you supported someone else making a complaint. For example, you help a colleague complain to a manager about being called ‘baby face’ at work by another colleague, and your manager then treats you less favourably as a result.

What Isn’t Classed as Age Discrimination?

There are certain situations where being a particular age is an essential requirement of a job. In these cases, being treated differently because of your age can be lawful.

For example:

  • Serving alcohol – by law, you must be over the age of 18 to serve alcohol in a shop, pub, bar or restaurant.
  • A compulsory retirement age that is justified according to the role.
  • A financial organisation such as a bank or insurance provider can set age limits on special services they offer e.g. a youth current account for under 18s or a silver saver for people over a certain age.

Help from an Employment Law Solicitor

No one should face discrimination at work and we understand you’re probably feeling upset and frustrated. If you’re unsure where you stand, you should first check your workplace’s discrimination policy or raise the issue with your HR department.

If you’ve tried resolving the issue at work already, and you’re not satisfied with the response, you could raise a grievance or make an Employment Tribunal claim.

Our experienced Employment Law Team can look at your situation and tell you whether you’ve experienced discrimination at work and advise you on your best course of action. Get in touch to see how we can help you.

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