So Peter Bloxham, former head of insolvency at law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, has lost his £4.5m age discrimination claim.
Bloxham accused Freshfields of age discrimination on the ground that changes to its pension scheme affected partners differently according to their age.
However, the tribunal said that it had found against Bloxham’s claims of indirect and direct discrimination. It said: “The unanimous judgment of the tribunal is that [Bloxham's] complaint of discrimination on the grounds of age is not well-founded and is dismissed.”
It is the first major case involving age discrimination legislation, which was introduced in October 2006.
Rachel Dineley, head of the Age Discrimination Unit at law firm Beachcroft LLP says: “Whilst the judgement will generally be a relief for employers, it does not give definitive guidance on the current issue of justifying discrimination. This is far from the end of the story. Although Peter Bloxham lost his case, Freshfields were still accused of discrimination, although this was considered ‘proportionate’. This is a unique aspect of age discrimination law which provides that discrimination can be justified if it is of proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
“It remains to be seen if Peter Bloxham will appeal and the results of a similar claim from Bloxham’s colleague, Lois Moore, will also be eagerly anticipated. For now, however, the judgement leaves employers with considerable comfort and room to manoeuvre in making appropriate adjustments to financial benefits in the light of business, (including financial), interests. The case has turned out to not be the dramatic watershed age discrimination case that it could so easily have become.”