Police officer denied promotion due to lack of degree was not discriminated against

A police officer in his 60s who was prevented from applying for a promotion because he did not hold a degree has lost his appeal for indirect age discrimination.

Mr Homer, a legal adviser at the Police National Legal Database (PNLD), applied for a higher-paid job when he was 61, but was rejected by the organisation because he did not meet its “essential” requirement of holding a law degree or similar qualification.

Homer, who had clocked up 30 years’ experience as a police officer, claimed that employees aged between 60 and 65 were disadvantaged because they did not have time to complete a degree before they retired.

An employment tribunal upheld his claim, but this was later overturned by the Employment Appeal Tribunal, and has now been dismissed by the Court of Appeal.

PNLD offered to finance Homer in taking a part-time degree course, but he turned down the opportunity as he felt it would be too onerous to have to study on top of a full-time job. He was also planning to retire at 65, by which point he would not have had time to complete the degree.

But the Court of Appeal ruled Homer’s disadvantage resulting from the degree requirement was the inevitable consequence of age, not a consequence of age discrimination.

Employers have been advised to take a cautious approach to requiring job applicants to have a degree, or failing to promote employees without a degree.

Stephen Simpson, employment law editor at XpertHR, said: “A best-practice approach is to allow high levels of experience to be an acceptable substitute to having a degree.”

Read the full background behind the case and further implications for employers on XpertHR.

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