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Age discrimination in employment - First Practice Management

Age discrimination in employment

Employment Equality (Age) Regulations

The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 [in England, Scotland and Wales] and the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 [in N. Ireland] ('the Regulations'), covering age discrimination in employment and vocational training, came into force on 1st October 2006. The provisions are included within the Equality Act 2010.

The Regulations cover people of all ages, both old and young. The Regulations:

  • Make unlawful discrimination on the grounds of age or perceived age in terms of recruitment, promotion and training
  • Introduce a national default (i.e. not compulsory) retirement age of 65. Dismissal on the basis of retirement at the default retirement age or the employer's retirement age [whichever is higher] is not unlawful
  • Make unlawful all retirement ages below 65 - except where it can be objectively justified
  • Allow employment benefits (e.g. holiday allowance, sick pay scheme) which are linked to length of service, provided that the length of service is not more than 5 years. Periods longer than 5 years can be used provided that this can be justified
  • Remove the upper age limit (which was 65) for unfair dismissal rights
  • Remove the lower (16) and upper (65) age limits for statutory sick, maternity, adoption, paternity and redundancy pay
  • Require employers to give written notification to employees in advance of their retirement date, and a right for employees to request to continue working beyond their retirement date

Practice action

Practices should ensure that:

  • their recruitment, training and promotion procedures are non-discriminatory
  • their retirement processes conform to the Regulations
  • their employment benefits scheme meets the Regulations

Subscribers to the Members section of the FPM website can access more details and guidance about discrimination in recruitment, together with a draft Age Discrimination Policy and a draft Retirement Policy in the Human Resources Index of the Protocols Library. If you are not a Member, have a look at the information about the benefits of membership and how to subscribe.

Note: the Regulations apply, in part, to partnerships. It is likely that the role and additional remuneration for a 'senior' partner may be seen as discriminatory under the regulations, so too may delays in reaching financial parity for a new partner. Requirement for Partners to retire before 65 will need to be objectively justified. Practices should seek advice from their solicitors to ensure that the terms of the partnership agreement conform to the Regulations.