Age discrimination at work
It's illegal for an employer to discriminate against you because of your age, whether in the workplace or when you apply for a job.
What age discrimination is
Some common examples of age discrimination include an employer thinking someone:
- can’t manage technology or learn new skills because they’re older
- is likely to take parental leave
- won’t fit in with the company culture because they aren’t the same age as other staff
- can’t be included in staff schemes, such as insurance or healthcare, because of their age.
New Zealand has no compulsory retirement age and more than 20% of people over 65 are still working.
Who gets legal protection
If you’re suitably qualified for a job and over 16, an employer can’t discriminate against you because of your age. This applies to all aspects of employment including:
- recruitment and selection
- your pay and conditions
- training and promotion
- ending your employment.
The law applies to both full-time and part-time work, even if you’re:
- working on contract
- a volunteer worker
- looking for work through a recruitment agency.
As well as employers, the law also applies to how you’re treated by professional or trade associations, qualifying bodies and vocational training bodies.
There are some exceptions. An employer can:
- pay you less than older people if you’re under 20
- refuse to hire you if it’s genuinely important that you need be a certain age for a particular job — for example, serving in a bar or joining the police.
If you’ve been discriminated against
Age discrimination can sometimes be hard to prove. The first thing to do is to discuss your problem with:
- the Human Rights Commission, or
- Employment New Zealand, part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).
They’ll talk the problem through with you and help you decide what to do next.
Resolving the problem
There are several ways the Human Rights Commission and MBIE can help you to resolve your problem. They’ll work with you to decide what to do. This could be making a phone call to the employer for you or arranging mediation so everyone involved can talk the problem through.
If it’s a human rights matter
The Human Rights Commission offers a free and confidential mediation service. When you contact them, you’ll need to tell them what happened and why you think you’ve been discriminated against. They’ll use this information to work out if your problem is one they can help with.
Taking further action
If your complaint isn’t resolved through the Human Rights Commission’s processes, you have the right to go to the Human Rights Review Tribunal. You can do this directly or by asking for representation from the Office of Human Rights Proceedings. If they think you have a genuine case, they pay for your legal representation.
If the Office of Human Rights Proceedings decides not to represent you, you can still take your case to the Human Rights Review Tribunal, but you have to pay your own legal costs.
Health and disability, or employment problems
If the Human Rights Commission think your problem is related to your employment, or a health and disability issue, they’ll refer you to Employment New Zealand, or the Health and Disability Commissioner.
If it’s an employment matter
Employment New Zealand provides a free mediation service for employees and employers.
If you can’t resolve your problem through mediation, other steps include taking a personal grievance against your employer.
Health and disability, or human rights issues
If the Employment New Zealand thinks your problem is a human rights, or a health and disability issue, they’ll refer you to the Human Rights Commission or the Health and Disability Commissioner.