What is unlawful discrimination?


What does the Human Rights Act mean by age?

The ground of age covers people of 16 years and over.

What does the Human Rights Act say about age?

In employment (includes pre-employment and advertising):

  • It is unlawful to discriminate against employees, job applicants, voluntary workers, people seeking work through an employment agency and contract workers because of someone’s age. Discrimination by partnerships, professional or trade associations, qualifying bodies and vocational training bodies is also unlawful.
  • Since 1 February 1999 it has been unlawful to discriminate on the ground of age in employment against people 16 years or over.

In accessing public places (includes vehicles):

  • It is unlawful to refuse access to or use of a public place on the grounds of age.

In the provision of goods and services:

  • It is unlawful to refuse to supply goods, services or facilities, or to provide them on less favourable terms or conditions, because of someone’s age. The definition of facilities includes banking, insurance, grants, loans and credit or finance.

In accommodation:

  • Landlords and real estate agents cannot refuse a person residential or business accommodation because of that person’s age. Equally, it is unlawful to provide less favourable terms and conditions in accommodation, or to place a low priority on a person’s application for accommodation, because of their age. This applies to buying, renting or leasing accommodation as well as staying in a hotel, motel or caravan park.

What exceptions are there applying to age?

There are a number of circumstances where it is not unlawful to discriminate on the ground of age. These include:

In employment:

  • Crews of non New Zealand ships and aircraft if the employee was engaged outside New Zealand
  • Domestic employment in a private household
  • Employment at a lower rate of pay for persons under twenty years of age
  • Where being above or under a particular age or in an age group is specified in another law (examples are the laws governing the ages of police officers and bar staff)
  • Where age is a genuine occupational qualification, for safety or any other reason
  • You can be retired at a particular age if your employment contract is in writing and was in force on 1 April 1992, a retirement age is specified and you have agreed to confirm or vary the retirement age in writing subsequently.

In qualifying bodies:

  • Where a reasonable minimum age is required for a qualification or authorisation needed for a profession, trade or calling.

In the provision of goods and services:

  • In insurance, if different treatment is based on reliable information relating to life-expectancy, accidents or sickness.
  • For organisation of sporting events for certain age groups.
  • For provision of group travel based on age.
  • In the membership of clubs.
  • Note: It is not unlawful to provide goods, services or facilities at a reduced rate to people of a particular age.

In accommodation:

  • Shared residential accomodation.
  • The provision of institutional accommodation, for example, a retirement village.

In training:

  • The grants, fees and admittance policies of some educational establishments and vocational training bodies.

In superannuation:

It is unlawful for superannuation schemes to treat people differently on the basis of age except where:

  • the superannuation scheme was in existence before 1 February 1994 and the person became a member of the scheme before 1 January 1996;
  • different contributions from, or benefits for members are based on reasonable data;
  • the provisions of the scheme require an applicant to be under a specified maximum age;
  • the provisions of the scheme specify an age of eligibility for each type of benefit;
  • subject to section 9C of the Superannuation Schemes Act 1989, requiring persons who become members of the scheme on or after 1 January 1995 to leave the scheme once they qualify for New Zealand Superannuation;
  • the scheme provides death or disability benefits that decrease in value as the age of members increases.

Further information

Human rights enquiries & complaints guide (PDF Version).
Available in Maori, Samoan, Tongan, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional) and Hindi.