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Posted by on in Discrimination
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Supreme Court rulings on age discrimination

The Supreme Court has handed down its judgments in two cases concerning age discrimination - Homer v West Yorkshire Police, and Seldon v Clarkson, Wright and Jakes.


The judgments have been welcomed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which believes these  judgments will remind all employers of their responsibilities and help make the law clearer.

Age discrimination is unlawful in the workplace, but the law allows exceptions to that general rule only if it can be justified. The justification is if it is a 'proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim'. This test can be confusing for employers and employees.


In making the ruling on Seldon, the Supreme Court gave some helpful guidelines on when direct age discrimination may be justified. These are:

  • Two types of aims had succeeded in the courts, those based on intergenerational fairness or dignity. Examples include:
    • Promoting access to employment for younger people.
    • Facilitating the participation of older workers in the workforce.
    • The efficient planning for the departure and recruitment of staff.
    • Avoiding disputes about the employee's fitness for work over a certain age.
  • Once an aim has been identified, it has still to be asked whether it is legitimate in the particular circumstances of the employment concerned.
  • The means used to achieve an aim must be proportionate to the aim and (reasonably) necessary to achieve it.


John Wadham, General Counsel, Equality and Human Rights Commission said:

'Every employer must think carefully about whether it really needs to have a policy that directly or indirectly discriminates against people based on their age. The court has made it clear that such policies must be justified on a case by case basis. An employer or partnership must be sure that the same aim couldn't be achieved using a less discriminatory approach.'



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