High-profile ageism rulings due in 2005

Age discrimination will be in the spotlight again early next year, when two high-profile tribunal cases are expected to be decided.

Solicitors in the long-running case of two men, who claim that upper age limits on unfair dismissal claims and redundancy payments discriminate against males, have asked the House of Lords to hear their case.

If heard by the upper house, arguments in the case of Rutherford and another v the Department of Trade and Industry will hinge on identifying the correct pool of people for comparison when deciding whether upper age limits unfairly discriminate against men.

The Government has said the correct pool is the entire workforce between the ages of 16 and 79, while the claimants contend the more appropriate group is between the ages of 55 and 74.

Paul Quain, solicitor at law firm Charles Russell, told Personnel Today’s sister publication Employers’ Law: “What this case turned on in the end was statistics. It’s a question of what you measure.”

Quain said he had no idea how the appeal to the House of Lords, due to be heard in February, would be received. He added that there is a “good chance” it will finally be determined by the European Court of Justice.

Another case in which age is the main area for debate is set for an employment appeal tribunal hearing in March.

The case of Cross and others v British Airways was last heard by a tribunal which appeared to suggest in its decision that, in part, the high cost to employers of raising the retirement age could justify discrimination.

Sophie Whitbread, a solicitor at Charles Russell who is representing the claimants, said: “European case law is against that.”

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