News story

Age discrimination to be outlawed under new government plans

Older people will receive new protection from discrimination under proposals published by the government today.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The plans will make it unlawful to unfairly discriminate against someone because of their age when providing goods and services.

Specific exceptions will allow companies to continue to offer beneficial services to certain age groups - for example free bus travel for over-60s, or holidays aimed at people aged 30 and under.

Providers of financial services, such as insurance companies, will still be allowed to use age when assessing risk and deciding prices. However, the new law, which will take effect from April 2012, will mean they have to base such decisions on solid evidence rather than simply imposing a blanket ban. Insurers will also be asked to help people find an alternative provider if they are unable to provide cover for age-related reasons.

Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone said: ‘It’s high time we put an end to outdated stereotypes based on age and recognised the valuable contributions that people of all ages can make to our society and economy. When older people are turned away from the market place through unfair treatment, the economy misses out on increased business and revenue.

‘These proposals will ensure that doesn’t happen, providing new protection and support for people of all ages. However, we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, which is why we will allow businesses to continue to provide the age-specific services that many people of all ages benefit from every day.’

Age discrimination in the workplace has been illegal since 2006. The decision to extend this ban to the provision of goods and services follows the announcement earlier this year that the government plans to phase out the default retirement age, which can be used to force people to retire at 65 even if they don’t want to.

The new rules will apply to services provided by the public sector as well as by private companies.

Full details of the plans for exceptions are contained in a consultation that was published today. The government is seeking views from people of all ages, as well as those working in relevant industries.

The consultation will run for three months.

Notes to editors

1. The full proposals can be downloaded from the Government Equalities Office website.

2. The Equality Act 2010 contains provisions enabling a ban on age discrimination in the provision of services and public functions. The consultation is being run ahead of this legislation being implemented.  

3. The government is planning to introduce the new ban, including appropriate exceptions from it, from April 2012. This consultation is about what the exceptions should be.

4. The ban will apply to all of Great Britain, but not Northern Ireland.

5. The ban applies equally to the old and young - it will be just as unlawful for a company to unfairly refuse service to someone because they are 25 as it will be to refuse service to someone because they are 85. However, the ban does not apply to children aged under 18.

6. The proposals contain exceptions in two main areas:

  • financial services. Financial service providers will still be allowed to use age when assessing risk and deciding prices. Age limits will still be permitted. However, any use of age in this manner must be based on information from a source on which it is reasonable to rely
  • general services, public functions, private clubs and other associations. Age-based concessions (for example discounts for over-65s) will still be allowed, as will age-related holidays (for example those offered by Saga and Club 18-30). Sports bodies will be permitted to impose age restrictions, such as running different teams and leagues under-21s and veterans.  Residential park homes will be permitted to include age restrictions in their admission rules, so that they can continue to cater to age-related needs. And immigration authorities will be allowed to treat people differently because of their age where it is necessary for them to fulfil their functions

7. The consultation proposes that there should be no specific exceptions for health and social care.  The plans will eliminate harmful discrimination while allowing justifiable and beneficial age-based practices, for example in public health programmes.

8. Full details of the exceptions are set out in the consultation paper.

9. For further details on the overall consultation, contact the Home Office press office on 020 7035 3535.

10. For details of what the new rules mean for health and social care, contact the Department of Health press office on 020 7210 5221

Published 3 March 2011