Indirect age discrimination

West Midlands Police v Harrod & Ors

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (“EAT”) confirmed in this case that it is not indirectly discriminatory on the grounds of age to retire police officers entitled to receive a pension, in order to cut costs. The EAT reached this decision by establishing that because police officers are not ‘employees’, unless they are found guilty of misconduct or capability, their office can only terminate upon retirement.

The Police Pensions Regulations 1987 (“the Regulations”) allows for retirement of police officers who meet certain criteria, if doing so is in the general interest of efficiency. Police forces were required to make 20% cuts in their budgets over four years following the government's Comprehensive Spending Review in 2010. Those affected by these cuts argued indirect age discrimination on the ground that the application of the Regulations meant that police officers over the age of 48 were clearly disadvantaged.

The EAT overturned the decision of the employment tribunal, stating that the only way the forces could be certain of a reduction in police officer numbers was by use of the Regulations, since there was no power to make a police officer redundant, the EAT found that their actions were justified.

In Practice

Kate Fretten, Employment Partner says, "Although specific to the police service, this case highlights the fact that it is very difficult for claimants to succeed with age discrimination claims. It is relatively easy for employers to show they have not acted unlawfully by showing their actions are justified as being a proportionate way of achieving a legitimate aim."

At Frettens, all of our solicitors offer a free initial meeting or chat on the phone to answer your questions. If this article raises issues for you or your business, please call us on 01202 499255 and Kate or Paul will be happy to discuss it with you.