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Age discrimination

All teachers and education professionals have specific protection from discrimination at work on grounds of age under the Equality Act 2010. 

Discrimination claim time limits

You are protected regardless of your age. Discrimination because you are perceived as being a particular age, or because you associate with someone who is a particular age, will be unlawful. You are protected whether you are a permanent, fixed-term, full-time, part-time, supply or agency teacher.

Your colleagues, managers and governors are prohibited from discriminating against you. If you are an agency worker on a day-to-day or longer term contract, your agency and the hirers for whom you are working are prohibited from discriminating against you.

What age discrimination is

Treating you less favourably in similar circumstances than another colleague on grounds of your actual or apparent age, or because you are in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s or 70s, would be direct age discrimination, unless the employer can justify it.

Applying to all staff a workplace provision or practice, that you and other colleagues of the same age cannot comply with because of your age, would be indirect age discrimination if it puts you at a disadvantage, unless the employer can justify it.

Employers are permitted to discriminate on grounds of age where they can justify the less favourable treatment, or the impact of the practice, or rule on you or your age group. For example, employment benefits related to service of no more than five years are permitted.

What is covered

You are protected from age discrimination before, during and after your employment. There should be no unlawful discrimination in recruitment including advertisements, shortlisting and interview procedures; pay; terms and conditions of employment; access to training; opportunities for promotion; transfers; dismissals; and after your employment has ended, for example, in the provision of references.


A refusal to shortlist a worker in their 50s for a vacancy on grounds that they were not in the first five years of their career would be discrimination; the requirement would disadvantage older workers and is unlikely to be justifiable.

It would be direct age discrimination to select a teacher or education professional for redundancy on the ground that s/he was over 60.

Similarly, to force an older person to retire on cost-saving grounds would be direct age discrimination. Retirement is not a fair reason to dismiss, and cost-saving would not be sufficient to justify such a decision.

What is not covered

Treatment that is nothing to do with your age, which the employer can show is wholly and genuinely for a non-discriminatory reason, or treatment which lawfully can be justified by the employer, will not be unlawful. Treatment that you might feel is unfair will not necessarily be discriminatory.

Your employer is permitted to set a pay scale related to service of five years or less.

Selection criterion for redundancy such as ‘last in, first out’ may disadvantage younger workers but might be lawful if the objective of the practice is to address the disadvantage experienced by older workers in the labour market.

Employers may use 'positive action' to encourage applications for vacancies from groups of people who are under-represented in the workforce or at a particular grade in the workforce. Employers may use ‘tie-break’ provisions to appoint an individual from an under-represented group if two candidates are as qualified as each other for a post. Contact the NEU if you need advice on an employer's use of positive action.

Employers sometimes specify that it is an occupational requirement for a post to be held by an individual with a particular equality characteristic. This option is rarely used in the education sector, but contact the NEU if you think that it has been used inappropriately to your disadvantage.

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