Age equality in employment
The Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015 ban discrimination in employment on a number of grounds, including age. It is against the law to discriminate against anyone in employment on the grounds of age.
The Acts only apply to people aged 16 and above. 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 cases it provides assistance to people who believe they have been discriminated against.
The Workplace Relations Commission
The Workplace Relations Commission investigates or mediates (or both) 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 on the grounds of gender, civil and family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race and membership of the Traveller community (known as the 9 protected grounds or groups).
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 covers not only current and past discrimination, but also discrimination that may exist in the future. Discrimination by imputation is also covered. This is discrimination against a person because they are incorrectly assumed (imputed) to be a member of one of the protected groups.
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 (excluding pensions), training or experience, promotion or regrading or classification of posts.
Indirect discrimination is when practices or policies do not appear to discriminate against one group more than another, but actually have a discriminatory impact. Indirect discrimination can also happen where a requirement that may appear non-discriminatory adversely affects a particular group or class of people.
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
In the case of an occupational benefits scheme, an employer is not discriminating on age where they:
- Fix ages for admission to the scheme or for entitlement to benefits under it
- Fix different ages for all employees or a category of employees
- Use age criteria in actuarial calculations
- Provide different rates of severance payment for different employees or groups or categories of employees, 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 talk to your employer to try and resolve the problem.
If this is unsuccessful, you should make a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission using the online complaint form.
You can read or download a free guide to taking an employment equality case from the Community Law and Mediation (CLM) website. CLM also offers free legal information, advice and mediation services.
Where to make a complaint