Age Discrimination Claim fails in Tribunal

inda Blake (the Employee) v Island Medical Centre (the Employer)

The Employee’s claim for work-related age discrimination was dismissed by the Tribunal. The Tribunal found that even if the Employee had been able to prove that she had been discriminated against on account of her age. Article 31 of the Discrimination Law operated so as to prevent any such claim succeeding.

It was not in dispute that the relevant retirement age for the Employee was 65. At the time the Employee’s employment ended, the Employee was nearly 71 years’ old. The staff handbook which detailed the retirement age for all employees specified that the relevant age was 65.

The staff handbook also detailed as follows: “In certain circumstances, consideration may be given to fresh employment being offered to you after retirement. Such offers will be totally at the discretion of the Group Directors or Partners and will be reviewed on an annual basis”

Applying the provisions of Article 31 of the Law, the Employee had undoubtedly reached retirement age at the time her contract was not renewed. In fact, the Employee’s contract of employment had been renewed more than once in spite of the fact that she had reached the specified retirement age.

The effect and application of Article 31 to the Employee’s claim meant that even if the Employee had proved each and every element of her claim, i.e. that the reason her contract was not renewed was because of the protected characteristic of her age, the Employee’s claim could not possibly succeed as a matter of law.

The Tribunal dismissed the Employee’s claim of compensation for work-related age discrimination.

Take-away points

Prior to 1 September 2018 employers in Jersey:-
1. Were under no obligation to extend employment indefinitely beyond retirement age (65 years), and could treat individual staff differently; and

2. Could dismiss an employee at pensionable age (65 years) or in accordance with the employer’s retirement age.

The employer could rely on Article 31 to protect itself against a claim of direct discrimination, as long as it disclosed the retirement age in its policies and procedures.

Following the introduction of age discrimination as a protected characteristic on 1 September 2018, organisations need to start reviewing their handbook and assessing if they were to be challenged under the new law, what is their legitimate aim for having a specified retirement age?

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