A recent Court of Appeal decision gives some guidance to employers as to how the courts and tribunals will deal with the issue of age discrimination.
The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 prevent employers discriminating against their employees on the basis of their age. Age discrimination can occur where an employer applies a provision, criterion or practice to employees of all ages which puts employees of a particular age group at a disadvantage compared with those employees outside that age group. This is known as indirect discrimination
In the case of Homer v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police  EWCA Civ 419 Mr Homer claimed that his employer, West Yorkshire Police, indirectly discriminated against him by imposing a new career structure which required those at the top level to have a law degree.
Mr Homer did not have a law degree and, as he was in his 60′s at the time the new career structure was introduced, he would not have been able to obtain one before he retired at 65. His claim was that the new structure was discriminatory towards those employees in the 60 to 65 age group as they were prevented from reaching the highest level in terms of pay and status.
The Court of Appeal decided that, although the need to obtain a law degree was a barrier to Mr Homer, it was a barrier that applied to all employees in the same way. The Court decided that it would not have been any more difficult for Mr Homer to complete a law degree than a younger employee. The fact that he did not have enough time to complete the course was not as a result of age discrimination but his proximity to the retirement age. For these reasons the Court of Appeal found that Mr Homer had not been discriminated against.