Age equality in employment
The Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015 prohibit discrimination in employment on a number of grounds, including age. It is unlawful to discriminate against anyone in employment on the grounds of age. The Acts only apply to persons above the maximum age at which a person is statutorily obliged to attend school (16). However there are a number of exceptions to the general principle of non-discrimination. The Acts also provide for positive action on a number of grounds including age.
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has a general remit to promote equality under the employment equality legislation. In some instances it provides assistance to people who believe they have been discriminated against.
The Workplace Relations Commission
The Workplace Relations Commission investigates and/or mediates disputes in relation to the implementation of employment equality legislation. Complaints about age discrimination are investigated by an adjudication officer which may order redress or compensation.
The Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015 outlaw direct, and indirect discrimination and discrimination by association at work including all aspects of employment on the grounds of gender, civil and family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race and membership of the Traveller community.
Discrimination is defined as the treatment of one person in a less favourable way than another person in a comparable situation on any of the grounds specified. It will cover not only current and past discrimination, but also discrimination that may exist in the future or is imputed to a person.
Where discrimination arises
The Acts outlaw discrimination by:
- Employment agencies
- Providers of vocational training
- Trade unions
- Employer organisations
- Professional bodies
- Trade associations
The Acts also outlaw discrimination in job advertisements.
Prohibited discrimination relates to equal pay, access to employment, conditions of employment, training or experience, promotion or regrading or classification of posts. Conditions of employment do not, in this context, include pensions.
Indirect discrimination occurs where an apparently neutral provision puts persons of a particular group covered by the Acts at a particular disadvantage and where the provision is not objectively justified by a legitimate aim and the means of achieving the aim are not appropriate and necessary.
Exclusions from the general prohibition of discrimination on age grounds
Under the Employment Equality Acts 1998–2015 an employer may:
- Set a minimum age requirement (not more than 18 years) for potential applicants for a job
- Offer a fixed-term contract to a person over the compulsory retirement age provided it is objectively justified
With regard to an occupational benefits scheme, it does not constitute discrimination on age grounds for an employer to:
- Fix ages for admission to such a scheme or for entitlement to benefits under it
- Fix different ages for all employees or a category of employees
- Use, in the context of such a scheme, age criteria in actuarial calculations
- Provide different rates of severance payment for different employees or groups or categories of employees, these rates being based on or taking into account the period between the age of an employee on leaving the employment and his or her compulsory retirement age provided that these measures do not constitute discrimination on the gender grounds.
Positive action to ease the integration into employment of people across all 9 grounds is allowed under the Acts.
How to make a complaint
If you feel that you have been discriminated against on the grounds of age (or any of the other grounds), you should first of all raise the issue with the employer. If this proves to be unsatisfactory, you should make a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission using the online complaint form available on workplacerelations.ie.
Complaints under the Employment Equality Acts 1998–2015 must be brought within 6 months of the last act of discrimination. The time limit can be extended by a further 6 months but only if there is reasonable cause which prevented the complaint from being brought within the normal time limit.
Where to make a complaint