Employment Expert Unsurprised By Rise In Age Discrimination Cases

Specialist Reveals Trends Follow 'General Pattern'

07.07.2011

The significant rise seen in age discrimination cases in England and Wales across the past year follows trends that have been seen in the past, according to an employment law specialist at Irwin Mitchell.

New figures show that the number of claims related to age accepted by Employment Tribunals rose by over 30 per cent across 2010-11, which follows trends seen in recent years and makes such disputes the third most common among discrimination claims behind those related to sex and race issues.

However, Matthew Brain, Partner and employment specialist at Irwin Mitchell, said evidence of such a significant increase in the data from the Tribunals Service should not be viewed as particularly surprising.

He explained: “There is a general pattern which emerges in relation to discrimination when new legislation on an issue is introduced. In this case, the most recent laws came in around 2006.

“Initially, there is never an avalanche of claims, as experts tend to wait to see which kind of claims tend to find favour with Tribunal judges and consider the impact that the legislative changes have had.

“We’re now clearly at a point where people understand the law and particularly whether they would be successful when bringing a claim.”

Matthew added: “Discrimination law traditionally gives rights to minority groups which are by definition proportionally smaller in number in percentage terms compared with the population at large.

“However, age discrimination claims are technically available to people of any age or age group and so potentially anyone can fall within its remit. It is perhaps therefore inevitable that the number of claims will increase accordingly.

“We are certainly seeing a rising trend for age claims particularly in relation to redundancies where it is often perceived that employers may be using the façade of redundancy to remove “dead wood” with a view to perhaps bringing in new and cheaper blood as the economy improves.

“The abolition of the Default Retirement Age is likely to result in a further increase of age related claims if employers do not put in place effective processes to deal with the departure of older employees, because of the perception that dismissal will be because of age unless there is a clear alternative explanation.”

Concluding, Matthew said: “Ultimately, this increase demonstrates to employers that they need to base any decisions in the workplace on merit, as well as the importance for businesses in implementing and observing transparent and rigorous policies to deal with, for example, recruitment, performance assessment, promotion and redundancy.”