Around one in four people aged 50 to 69 have experienced age discrimination when working or looking for work according to the Department for Work and Pensions.
Estimates of the annual cost to the economy of ageism in employment range from £16 billion (Cabinet Office, 2000) to £31 billion (Employers Forum on Age, 2001)
Legislation on age discrimination was implemented on 1st October 2006. It covers employment and vocational training. It covers people of all ages and it affects men and women equally.
Age is the final strand of equality legislation to be implemented and it will now be enforced alongside existing legislation on race, sex, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief.
The Age Discrimination Act only applies to employment. So it could not be used to challenge the ageist regulations which prevent people, who have passed their 66 birthday, applying to The Independent Living Fund to top up their direct payments. It could not either be used by a 15 year old to challenge the under age smoking legislation because it is the subject of Statutory Law, and would not be subject to decision of a tribunal or court.
It could, however, be used by people responding to adverts for Personal Assistants. Requiring that an applicant put their date of birth on an application form is now unlawful and an individual, or company, or both could have action taken against them under the Act.The anti-discrimination legislation that already exists is as follows:
Equal Pay Act 1970
The Equal Pay Act 1970 gives an individual a right to the same contractual pay and benefits as a person of the opposite sex in the same employment, where the man and woman are doing the same work, or work rated as equivalent work, or work of equal value.
Sex Discrimination Act 1975
The Sex Discrimination Act applies to men and women of any age, It makes discrimination on the grounds of sex or marriage unlawful and victimizing anyone who takes a case to a tribunal is also unlawful. However, it is not unlawful to discriminate against someone because they are not married.
Race Relations Act 1976
The Race Relations Act covers people from all racial groups and makes no distinction on the grounds of race, colour, nationality (including citizenship), or ethnic or national origin. The Act was amended in 2000 – the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000. This means that the Act now includes public functions, even if those functions are carried out by a private business; and it also places a general duty on listed public authorities to promote race equality.
Disability Discrimination Act 1995
The Disability Discrimination Act covers discrimination against disabled people. It originally applied to employers with 15 or more employees, but recent changes implemented October 2004 mean that the Act now applies to most employers no matter how many members of staff. The Act is to ensure that disabled people are treated equally and not discriminated against for a reason related to their disability including if, without justification, a ‘reasonable adjustment’ is not made. The Act also applies to all those who provide goods, facilities and services for the public.
Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
The regulations protect everyone from direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimization in employment and training on the grounds of sexual orientation. Practical workplace guidance can be obtained from ACAS or Stonewall – a lesbian, gay and bisexual group (www.stonewall.org.uk) . There is a range of information and advice sources available on the DTI web page dedicated to the regulations which can be found at www.dti.gov.uk/equality). (The regulations will be updated to reflect the introduction of the Civil Partnership Act and the new legal status of civil partnership.).
Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003
The regulations protect everyone from direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimization in employment and training on the grounds of religion or belief. Practical workplace guidance can be obtained from ACAS. Information detailing the cultural differences, customs and requirements of different religions can be found at Multifaithnet
The Human Rights Act 1998
Although the Human Rights Act is different to the other laws listed here, it is useful to know the basics as it is being used more frequently. The Human Rights Act came into force on 2 October 2000. It has sixteen basic rights, which effect all aspects of human rights, from freedom from torture and killing to individual rights in every day life. It also includes the right not to be treated differently because of your race, religion, sex, political views or any other status, unless it can be objectively justified. It incorporates into UK law Rights and freedoms guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights. The new law does three simple things:
It makes it unlawful for a public authority, like a government department, local authority or the police, to breach the Convention rights, unless, because of an Act of Parliament, it has no choice.
It says that all UK legislation should be given a meaning that fits with the Convention rights, if that’s possible. If a court says it’s not possible, it will be up to Parliament to decide what to do.
It means that cases can be dealt with in a UK Court or tribunal. Until this law, anyone who felt that their rights had been breached had to go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.