Commission funds first age discrimination cases heard at the Supreme Court

17 January 2012

  • Seldon v Clarkson, Wright and Jakes
  • Homer v Yorkshire Police Constabulary

The Commission will use the first two age discrimination cases to be heard by the UK’s Supreme Court today (17 January 2012) to argue that an exception to the law banning age discrimination in employment is in urgent need of clarification.

Both cases seek clarity from the UK’s highest court on the interpretation of the rule that allows employers to justify age discrimination if they can prove it is a 'proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim'.

Default retirement age was scrapped in April 2011, however, an employer can still force an employee to retire using if it can show that the policy is justifiable as a 'proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim'. For this reason, the Supreme Court’s clarification of the test has wide implications for all retirement situations.

The Commission is funding and running the direct discrimination case of Mr Seldon against the law firm where he was a senior partner - Clarkson, Wright and Jakes. He was forced to retire in 2006 because he turned 65.

The regulator is also funding the indirect discrimination case of Mr Homer against Yorkshire Police Constabulary where he was a senior legal advisor. He could not get the highest pay grade, after his employer’s rules changed, because he did not have a degree nor could he complete one before his retirement.

John Wadham, Group Legal Director at the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s said:

'Forced retirement ages have been abolished, but now lawyers and employers need to understand when age discrimination is 'justifiable' in terms of the law.

'People should be measured on what they can contribute in the workplace: age-related stereotypes about what people can or cannot do should not be a factor. It would not be tolerated if it was applied to any other form of discrimination.'

Ends

For more press information contact the Commission’s media office on 020 3117 0255, out of hours 07767 272 818.

For general enquiries please contact the Commission’s national helpline: England 0845 604 6610, Scotland 0845 604 5510 or Wales 0845 604 8810.

Notes to Editors

Direct age discrimination: treating someone less favourably because of their actual or perceived age, or because of the age of someone with whom they associate. The law permits justification of treatment only if it is a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.

Indirect age discrimination: putting in place a rule or policy or way of doing things that has a worse impact on because of someone’s age, when this cannot be objectively justified.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006, which took over the responsibilities of Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission. It is the independent advocate for equality and human rights in Britain. It aims to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people, and promote and protect human rights. The Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or transgender status, and encourages compliance with the Human Rights Act. It also gives advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors, and to individuals.