Government appeals age bias ruling

The Employers Forum on Age (EFA) is unhappy that the Government is to appeal
against a landmark employment tribunal ruling on older workers.

The tribunal decision, made in August, gives thousands of workers aged over
65 the right to claim for unfair dismissal and redundancy payments.

However, last week Secretary of State for trade and industry Patricia Hewitt
announced the DTI would take the case to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

Workers John Rutherford, 71, and Samuel Bentley, 74, won a claim for
indirect sexual harassment when they were dismissed from their jobs in the
clothing industry for being over 65.

Their legal team from Charles Russell and Islington Law Centre argued there
are far more working men over the age of 65 compared to women, and therefore
the cut-off point at 65 years discriminates against men.

Sam Mercer, campaign director for the EFA, which welcomed the original
decision as a step towards stopping age discrimination, said the ruling should

"Whether the Government appeal is successful or not, when someone is
unfairly dismissed, they should be able to make a claim whatever their age, as
a matter of principal," he said.

Paul Quain, a barrister at Charles Russell, said he needed to consult his
client, but believed the appeal would be contested.

He warned that during the eight or nine months an appeal would take to go
through, employers could still be open to similar claims which would then be
decided pending the result of the appeal.

"Employers should ensure they have normal retirement ages in place as
this will lower the risk," he warned. He said they should also check that
no policies affect one sex more than another.

In a statement, the DTI said: "We believe this tribunal decision, which
related to sex, not age, discrimination, should be overturned on appeal."

The spokesman said employers will be able to put forward their views next
year on future age discrimination laws when the DTI opens the second stage of
its consultation on age legislation, due to be introduced in 2006.

By Quentin Reade

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