Age Discrimination - Private Members Clubs

With effect from 1st October 2012 provisions in the Equality Act 2010 relating to age discrimination come into force and will affect private members club or associations who:

  • Have at least 25 member
  • Have rules regulating who can be a member and there is a genuine selection process for membership (whether or not the process is formal or   written)

Examples of such clubs will be a local golf or tennis club, working men’s club or even the Scouts Association.

The Act already provides that private clubs and associations (along with other more public entities) cannot, without sufficient reason, discriminate against club members or their guests because of any “protected characteristics” – these are:

  • Disability;
  • Race;
  • Religion or belief (or lack of belief);
  • Sex;
  • Sexual orientation;
  • Gender reassignment;
  • Pregnancy and maternity (and include discrimination for e.g. breast feeding)

The age discrimination provisions which come into force on 1st October 2012 only protect people over 18 years of age.

If a private club wishes to treat members and guests differently because of their age, there are two exceptions to this rule:

  1. concessions or discounts or targeted services can be offered to members abovebelow a certain age or based on long service or membership – for example, pensioners clubs, cheaper prices for over 60 or under 21, free access to certain age groups at specific times.
  2. age restricted sports competitions will still be allowed e.g. under 21s football competitions, or veterans golf events. Children (under 18) can still be    banned from adult competition, and age limits and bands can apply to secure fair competition or safety or to e.g. comply with sport governing    bodies.

If a private club has other policies which amount to age discrimination in the way in which they provide services they will need to provide a good reason for the policy or practice (objectively justify) these policies to avoid age discrimination liability. Objective justification is a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim” for example they are socially positive or in the public interest.

Even if policies are within the 2 exceptions set out above, or can be objectively justified, a private club can never harass someone for reasons related to their age (e.g. by using derogatory language) or victimise them for making an age related complaint.

How is the law enforced?

As the law only protects those over 18 years old, any adult can bring a complaint, and ultimately an action in the county court, if you considered that they have experienced unjustified age discrimination, harassment or victimisation provided that they can show that they were genuinely interested in using the specific service.

If you wish to discuss any issue arising from this article, or any employment issue contact Janet Long by email to

The contents of this article are intended for general information only. It is not a substitute for legal advice, and shall not be deemed to be or constitute legal advice. We therefore cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article. We will, however, be pleased to advise you on the specific facts of your case