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The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006

Dateline: 29th October, 2006

As from 1st October 2006, it is unlawful for an employer, in relation to employment by him at an establishment in Great Britain, to discriminate against a person—

(a) in the arrangements he makes for the purpose of determining to whom he should offer employment;
(b) in the terms on which he offers that person employment; or
(c) by refusing to offer, or deliberately not offering, him employment.

It is also unlawful for an employer, in relation to a person whom he employs at an establishment in Great Britain, to discriminate against that person—

(a) in the terms of employment which he affords him;
(b) in the opportunities which he affords him for promotion, a transfer, training, or receiving any other benefit;
(c) by refusing to afford him, or deliberately not affording him, any such opportunity; or
(d) by dismissing him, or subjecting him to any other detriment.

These are the main provisions of the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 - the words in italics are the actual words of the regulations - and there are, of course, ifs and buts, particularly as regards the employer's stated retirement age (or, if there is not one, the state retirment age of 65). Even a quick glance at the regulations is enough to give any non-lawyer terminal glazed-eyes syndrome, but the general thrust of the legislation is clear: discrimination against anyone in the workplace (or applying to join a particular workplace) on the grounds of age is now forbidden by law.

There are exceptions for genuine occupational requirements: in other words, where a particular occupation is age-specific. For example, it would be unreasonable for an 60-year old actor to insist that (s)he be considered for the part of a teenager.

The regulations also apply to vocational training: It is unlawful, in relation to a person seeking or undergoing training, for any training provider to discriminate against him—

(a) in the arrangements he makes for the purpose of determining to whom he should offer training;
(b) in the terms on which the training provider affords him access to any training;
(c) by refusing or deliberately not affording him such access;
(d) by terminating his training; or
(e) by subjecting him to any other detriment during his training.

And there are similar regulations governing admittance to and taking part in further and higher education: It is unlawful, in relation to an educational establishment to which this regulation applies, for the governing body of that establishment to discriminate against a person—

(a) in the terms on which it offers to admit him to the establishment as a student;
(b) by refusing or deliberately not accepting an application for his admission to the establishment as a student; or
(c) where he is a student of the establishment—

(i) in the way it affords him access to any benefits,
(ii) by refusing or deliberately not affording him access to them, or
(iii) by excluding him from the establishment or subjecting him to any other detriment.

The effect is to outlaw age discrimination in the same way that previous legislation has outlawed discrimination on the grounds of sex, race or disability.

Theatre, in fact, has a better-than-most record in this regard but theatres and theatre companies, drama schools and universities, must now rewrite their policies and procedures to take the new legislation into account. Age must be added to those claims that "X is an equal opportunities employer".

That, however, is not in itself enough, for the regulations go on to state that

(1) Anything done by a person in the course of his employment shall be treated for the purposes of these Regulations as done by his employer as well as by him, whether or not it was done with the employer's knowledge or approval.

(2) Anything done by a person as agent for another person with the authority (whether express or implied, and whether precedent or subsequent) of that other person shall be treated for the purposes of these Regulations as done by that other person as well as by him.

(3) In proceedings brought under these Regulations against any person in respect of an act alleged to have been done by an employee of his it shall be a defence for that person to prove that he took such steps as were reasonably practicable to prevent the employee from doing that act, or from doing in the course of his employment acts of that description.

In other words, employers must ensure that management and all others in any position of authority within the organisation must be aware of the Regulations and know their responsibilities under them - and be aware that both they and the employer can be prosecuted if the Regulations are breached. There is also provision within the Regulations to protect people from harrassment, making harrassment an offence.

On the positive side, nothing in the Regulations

shall render unlawful any act done in or in connection with—

(a) affording persons of a particular age or age group access to facilities for training which would help fit them for particular work; or

(b) encouraging persons of a particular age or age group to take advantage of opportunities for doing particular work;

where it reasonably appears to the person doing the act that it prevents or compensates for disadvantages linked to age suffered by persons of that age or age group doing that work or likely to take up that work.

Action for breach of these regulations can be brought through employment tribunals or through the civil courts.

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©Peter Lathan 2006