Age discrimination

Discrimination based on age is illegal 

the eleventh hour discrimination350In this article we examine the definition of age discrimination in Ireland, what to do if you have been discriminated against, and age discrimination cases .

What employment laws in Ireland deal with discrimination based on the grounds of age?

The Employment Equality Acts 1998 – 2015 list the main discriminatory grounds which includes age. It clearly states that it is unlawful to discriminate against an employee on grounds of age. Positive discrimination is allowed. The Act only applies to persons over the age of 16 ( the current age at which a person can legally cease attending school) . The Acts prohibits direct and indirect discrimination together with discrimination by association at work and in all areas connected with employment.





What is the definition of age discrimination?

The equality acts define discrimination as treatment of ojne person in a less favourable way than another person in a comparable situation in any of the listed grounds, which include age. It is a very wide definition which covers not only present and past discrimination, but also future discrimination. This is discrimination which may exist in the future or is imputed to a person.


What groups are prohibited from discriminating?

The Acts bans discrimination by the following groups :

  • Employers

  • Employment agencies

  • Trade unions

  • Vocational training providers

  • Professional bodies

  • Employer organisations

  • Trade associations


What are the common areas of age discrimination ?

Discrimination can arise in relation to equal pay, access to employment, this includes job advertisements as well as interviews, application forms, job discriptions. It also covers conditions of employment, training or experience. Promotion, classification of posts. Pensions are not considered to be part of conditions of employment.

Discrimination may be direct (for more see ) or indirect (for more see )

For more on Discriminatory dismissal see


What is not covered by the Employment Equality Acts ?

An employer may make some distinctions which do not constitute age discrimination. For example, an employer can set a minimum age requirement for a job provided it does not exceed 18 years. A fixed term contract can be offered to an employee who is over the compulsory retirement age, on the basis that it can be objectively justified.

In an occupational benefits scheme an employer can do the following without breaching the definition of age discrimination:

  • Fix ages for admission to or benefit entitlement under such a scheme

  • Fix different ages for all (or a category of ) employees.

  • Actuarial calculations

  • Different rates of severance pay taking into account the period between the age of an employee on leaving and their compulsory retirement age.

An employeer must take into account each of the other grounds of discrimination.

Positive discrimination which helps a person integrate into the world of employment is allowed.

That leads us to the next question

How does an employer objectively justify a mandatory retirement age ?

The short answer is very carefully. A mandatory retirement age must be capable of being reasonably and objectively justified. The main grounds include:

  • Health & Safety

  • Establishing an age balance in the workforce

  • Succession planning

  • Encourage the recruitment and promotion of younger people


Harassment based on age

Age related harassment is unlawful. Employers are obliged to take sufficient measures to ensure that it does not take place in the workplace.


Are there guidelines for employers on age discrimination ?

Yes. The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission released guidelines in April 2018 dealing with Retirement and Fixed-Term Contracts.


  You can download a copy of the Guidelines here 

For more on discrimination and equality see


What should I do if I have been discriminated against ?


Apps clock icon You need to act without delay. There are strict time limits. You must make a claim within six months of the act complained of.

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