Monday 27 October 2008

Age Discrimination

In Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police v Homer, the EAT held that a requirement that an employee had to have a law degree to be entitled to graded at a higher pay scale did not put a 61-year old employee at a particular disadvantage on the grounds of his age, even though he could not have obtained a degree (studying part-time) before he retired.

The EAT (Elias P. presiding) reasoned:

  • the requirement of a law degree was not something required only of those over a certain age. Nor was it in principle more difficult for an older person to obtain the qualification that it was a younger person.
  • whilst the Claimant could not materially benefit from any law degree he might obtain, that was because his working life was limited by his age. The EAT described such a disadvantage as "the inevitable consequence of age; it is not a consequence of age discrimination" (para 39), drawing an analogy with an employee who complained that a universal payrise was discriminatory because he, being closer to retirement, had less time than younger colleagues to enjoy it.

The decision need not however spell all doom and gloom for Claimants. Had Mr Homer been able to establish the requisite disadvantage, the EAT stated that it would have upheld the tribunal's finding that any age discrimination was not justified as the requirement was not a proportionate means of achieving the recruitment and retention of appropriately qualified staff.

[Thanks to Sian Reeves, pupil barrister at 1 Temple Gardens, for providing this case summary]

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