Age discrimination: police officers to appeal against EAT decision on A19 retirement

police-age-discrimination

An appeal has been lodged against the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) ruling that requiring police officers to retire after 30 years’ service to cut costs was not age discrimination.

The EAT judgment in this case, which has wide implications for all police forces in England and Wales, was delivered on 8 July 2015.

In Harrod and others v Chief Constable of West Midlands Police and others, the EAT overturned the employment tribunal decision that five police forces committed age discrimination when they liberally used the “A19 rule”.

According to the Police Superintendents’ Association, permission for the case to go the Court of Appeal is now being sought.

The A19 rule in police pension regulations allows forces to require a police officer to retire once he or she reaches 30 years’ service and is entitled to a pension of two-thirds of pensionable pay.

Police forces’ adoption of the A19 rule increased as budgets were substantially cut and the forces had to find new ways, alongside traditional methods such as a recruitment freeze, to cut their expenditure.

The police forces were given legal advice that, while wider use of the A19 rule would be indirectly discriminatory, it was possible that it could be justified.

The employment tribunal originally found that the widespread practice of requiring the retirement of officers in this way was not a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. It took into account that there were other ways in which the forces could have cut costs.

However, the EAT disagreed. It held that, while discrimination potentially occurred when the forces applied reg.A19 to retire police officers, the tribunal had been wrong to conclude that the forces’ actions were not justified.

The EAT said that the tribunal had made a misguided attempt to propose alternative means of cost savings. None of the alternative means proposed had the required degree of certainty.

A19 police retirement rule: age discrimination?

Compulsory retirement on grounds of efficiency of the force

“(1) This Regulation shall apply to a regular policeman … who if required to retire would be entitled to receive a pension of an amount not less than two thirds of his average pensionable pay…”

“(2) If a police authority determine that the retention in the force of a regular policeman to whom this Regulation applies would not be in the general interests of efficiency, he may be required to retire on such date as the police authority determine.”

Police Pensions Regulations 1987

The Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales, which is supporting the officers’ claims, said: “An employment tribunal considered all of the issues in this case in considerable depth over the course of a 25-day hearing, before reaching a unanimous decision in favour of all the officers who made claims after being subjected to compulsory retirement.

“This case raises important issues concerning age discrimination, affecting not only police officers but the public as a whole.”

The statement continues: “The Police Superintendents’ Association will continue to support its members who were affected by the A19 exercise, and we are seeking the Court of Appeal’s permission to present our appeal against the judgment of the Employment Appeal Tribunal and for the decision of the employment tribunal to be reinstated.

“Whilst the application for permission to appeal is considered, the association will continue to discuss the issue with its members and other interested parties.”

The claims were brought against the police forces of Devon and Cornwall, Nottinghamshire, the West Midlands, North Wales and South Wales.

A total of 15 police forces in England and Wales have made use of the A19 rule. Since the employment tribunal ruling, the number of age discrimination claims from police officers has ballooned to more than 1,000.

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