On the eve of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling in the Heyday case, new figures show that age discrimination employment tribunal claims have rocketed.
Figures obtained from the Tribunals Service by Eversheds law firm show that in the year to the end of March 2008, there were 2,900 complaints of age discrimination made to tribunals.
By contrast, about 3,100 claims had already been registered in the 10 months to the end of January 2009, with Eversheds predicting total numbers are likely to top 3,700 by the end of March – an increase of more than 27%.
The news comes as the ECJ prepares to deliver a preliminary ruling – expected tomorrow (5 March) – in the long-running Heyday case as to whether UK laws allowing employers to enforce a default retirement age of 65 have to comply with EU age discrimination law.
Owen Warnock, partner and age discrimination expert at Eversheds, said: “It is not surprising that employees are becoming increasingly aware of their rights in this area and a backlog of age discrimination claims now exists pending the outcome of the Heyday case.
“It is likely to be at least another 12 months before the law is clarified on this issue and it could take much longer if there are appeals within the UK legal system and further referrals to the European Court.
“Employers will have to continue to make decisions about staff reaching retirement age with absolutely no idea on the legal position.”