Age Discrimination (NT)
Updated on Nov 10, 2022 • 5 min read • 397 views • Copy Link
Age Discrimination (NT)
Discrimination occurs when a person is treated unfairly or differently because of a protected attribute. In the Northern Territory, discrimination on the basis of age is prohibited under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1992 and the Federal Age Discrimination Act 2004. The prohibition against age discrimination applies equally to younger and older workers. This page explains age discrimination in the Northern Territory.
Age Discrimination in the Northern Territory
Discrimination exists when someone is treated less favourably than someone else. However, not all discrimination is unlawful. It is only unlawful to discriminate against a person because of a protected attribute, and only in certain areas of life. Protected attributes include race, gender, pregnancy and relationship status, sexual orientation, and age. This means that it is unlawful to discriminate against someone on the basis of their age, or the characteristics imputed to people of their age, in important areas of life. This includes work, education, housing, clubs, as well as the provision of goods and services.
It is more common to think of age discrimination in relation to older people, but it is equally unlawful to discriminate against a younger person. For example, it is discriminatory for a real estate agent to decline to rent an apartment to university students because they might damage the property due to partying.
Territory and federal law
Age discrimination is prohibited in the Northern Territory under both Federal and Territory law. A complaint may be heard by the Anti-Discrimination Commission in Darwin or the Australian Human Rights Commission, depending on the circumstances. When age discrimination occurs in the workplace, the applicable scheme depends on the size and nature of the employer. Employees of the Territory government are covered by Territory law, while federal government employees are covered under the federal scheme. Small businesses fall under Territory legislation, and larger companies are covered by Federal law. It is best to seek specialist legal advice to confirm which scheme is most appropriate, especially because time limits apply.
Age discrimination in the workplace
In relation to work, age discrimination can occur during recruitment, the negotiation of employment terms and conditions, workplace relations, and opportunities for promotion and dismissal. Industrial agreements and awards may not impose a compulsory retirement age or require the termination of a worker’s employment upon reaching a specific age. Harassment or bullying on the basis of age is also prohibited in the Northern Territory. Put simply, an employer in the Northern Territory cannot treat a current or potential worker less favourably than someone of different age.
Direct and indirect age discrimination
Age discrimination can be direct or indirect. Direct age discrimination involves choosing not to hire someone who is older because they may not fit in with the other employees, or refusing to send someone on a training course because they might retire soon. Indirect age discrimination is harder to pin down. It occurs when a rule applies to all members of a team, but some workers cannot participate due to their age. For instance, it is indirect age discrimination if an employer requires all members of a management team to play in a rugby team if this was not otherwise a requirement of the role. While the employer may not have intended to discriminate against an older employee, it is nevertheless the effect.
Employers have a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent age discrimination in the workplace. Reasonable steps might include implementing procedures and policies to create a discrimination-free environment, and immediately intervening when there are allegations of age harassment or discrimination.
There are a number of exceptions that allow age discrimination in the Northern Territory. For instance, it is not unlawful to refuse a job candidate when their age means that they cannot carry out the inherent requirements of the position. Voluntary work and domestic duties in private homes are also not covered by the age discrimination law. Additionally, there is an exemption when age discrimination complies with Federal or Territory law. For instance, the laws relating to the legal capacity of children are not subject to age discrimination prohibitions, nor are taxation, social security and superannuation laws. The legal requirement for a person to be 18 to work in a bar in the Northern Territory is an exemption to the age discrimination law, and an employer can pay a younger worker a youth wage. Conversely, it is age discrimination if a younger worker is dismissed simply because they no longer qualify to be paid the youth wage.
Positive age discrimination
It is not against the law to provide genuine benefits to people of a certain age. For example, sporting organisations and charities can hold activities or provide services for particular age groups and exclude individuals who fall outside the age range. Older Australians can receive positive discrimination through concessions and discounts with a Seniors Card.
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