Age

The Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person because of their age.

Age means a person's chronological age, and the prohibition on age discrimination covers all ages.

Age discrimination includes:

  • treating a person less favourably because of their age than someone in similar circumstances of a different age;
  • imposing an unreasonable requirement or condition which disadvantages people of particular ages or age groups.

The age discrimination provisions cover all aspects of work (recruitment, terms and conditions on which a job is offered, employment benefits, training, transfers, promotion and dismissal) as well as when a person is in a shop or restaurant, at school or college, looking for accommodation, applying for credit, insurance or a loan, or when dealing with tradespeople, businesses or state or local government.

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Age discrimination examples

Examples:

  • A person is not selected for a training course at work because they are close to retiring age
  • A university student is told that they can't rent a flat because young people always wreck them.
  • An employer provides prizes or extra benefits as an incentive for employees who are especially productive, but only employees under the age of 30 are eligible for a prize.
  • An employer requires ten years experience for an unskilled position, which could easily be performed by a younger applicant.

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Age related exemptions

There are some circumstances in which age discrimination is permitted.

Youth wages

A worker under the age of 21 years may be paid according to their age. An employer can advertise for a junior and select the successful candidate on that basis.

Age based benefits

Benefits and concessions on the basis of age may be permitted.

Examples:

  • Travel concessions are available to children and seniors.
  • The government issues Seniors Cards that entitle the holder to concessions and discounts from government and business.

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Genuine occupational requirements

Employers can take age into account where there is a genuine occupational requirement involved. This means that for a person to perform the duties effectively it is necessary that they be a particular age. It does not mean that it is acceptable to make assumptions about a person's abilities based solely on their age.

Examples:

  • A role in a play might require a person in a particular age group.
  • To obtain a real estate agent license a person must be 18 years or over.

Equal opportunity measures and welfare measures

It is lawful to take measures to benefit or promote equal opportunity for members of a disadvantaged group.

Examples:

  • An employer could encourage applications from older unemployed people who may have difficulty re-entering the workforce due to stereotypes and prejudices about older workers.
  • In a sector of the workforce where young people have difficulty getting a start, or in a town or locality with a high level of youth unemployment, an employment agency could establish a program for young people to gain sufficient confidence and skills to be competitive.

Awards and State Acts

It is not illegal to do something specifically authorised by or necessary to comply with a provision of an industrial award, agreement or other Act, which was in existence on  30 June 1992.

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Compulsory retirement

It is against the law to require employees to retire once they reach a particular age. However, this does not apply to Queensland fire officers or police officers, and certain statutory appointments (such as judges).

Employers must not ask an employee to sign an agreement that they will retire at a certain age. People should not be forced to enter into unlawful agreements.

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Application forms and interviews

In general, employers should not ask a person's age or date of birth on application forms or in job interviews.

It is against the law to ask this question unless it is reasonably necessary for the employer to have this information for a non-discriminatory purpose.

Information for a non-discriminatory purpose examples

  • Age may be asked if the position is for a junior.
  • Date of birth may be asked if there are security clearances involved.
  • In Queensland, private employment agents are required to keep a register of people looking for work, and the register is to include the name, age and gender of those people.

If date of birth is necessary for purposes such as superannuation or award increments, this information can be sought after the person is employed, rather than at the recruitment stage.

More information on recruitment and selection is available from the Recruitment section of the Discrimination in Employment Guideline.

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Information and enquiry service

Individuals, employers and business operators can access the Commission's statewide telephone information and enquiry service.

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Making a complaint

Make a complaint to the Commission on the Complaint Form about age discrimination.

The complaint must be lodged with the Commission within 1 year of the discrimination happening.

The Commission's service is free.

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