Equality Bill — Report (Continued)
Baroness Thornton (Baronesses in Waiting, HM Household; Labour)
My Lords, this amendment would provide a specific exemption from age discrimination claims so that those involved in alcohol marketing can use only those people who are, and appear to be, over the age of 25, in compliance with relevant codes of practice. Clause 13(2) makes it clear that, in the case of age, A does not discriminate against B if A can show that A's treatment of B is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. I hope that noble Lords understood that this late at night.
Further, the Bill does not change the law with regard to age discrimination in employment. In particular, Part 1 of Schedule 9 replicates the existing law. We are not aware of any claims brought by young people who feel that they have been refused work because they do not appear to be over 25, although I realise that the aim of the amendment is the protection of young people. The Government have sought to achieve a legislative balance by setting out a limited number of general exemptions to unlawful age discrimination in employment, such as in relation to the national minimum wage, benefits based on length of service and enhanced redundancy payments. However, to avoid weakening the legislation, these are deliberately limited to broad-based employment practices of particular significance to the economy and the labour market.
When we were developing the age regulations-there will be regulations to address these issues-it became apparent that it was not possible to specify in detail every instance where age discrimination by an employer might be objectively justifiable in pursuit of a legitimate aim. I think that that is the A and B bit to which I referred. Indeed, to attempt to do so might be counterproductive, as it could inadvertently exclude practices that could be beneficial. We therefore have Clause 13(2), which was referred to, for situations falling outside the general exceptions in relation to age and employment. Although such justification must be on a case-by-case basis, in the circumstances set out by the noble Baroness the employer is highly likely to be acting within the law, as there is a clear public interest justification in play. Indeed, the employment provisions apply to those making advertisements now and they have the protection that I have just outlined.
Current advertising regulations also contain rules that no one who is, or who appears to be, under the age of 25 may appear in an alcohol advertisement, apart from in adverts showing families socialising responsibly. Therefore, there is already an appropriate regime to ensure that suitable protections are in place to cover the involvement of younger people. I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment. I should add that, when I referred to regulations, I meant existing age regulations, the effect of which is replicated and repeated in the Bill.