Trade union Unite has secured a landmark age discrimination ruling against Rolls-Royce that should give older workers across the UK greater protection from redundancies.
The engineering firm had argued that taking long service into account when selecting workers for redundancy amounted to indirect age discrimination. It wanted to ignore length of service when making redundancies.
But a High Court judgment rejected the argument, saying that older workers typically had more difficulty finding new work after redundancy. It ruled that protecting them in redundancy agreements was legitimate even under the 2006 Age Regulations.
The decision set a precedent to protect older workers from the effects of redundancy, Unite joint general secretary Derek Simpson said.
"We believe that Rolls-Royce was effectively trying to use age discrimination legislation to remove agreements designed to protect older workers," Simpson said.
"Unite has found that many companies have tried to use the Age Discrimination Regulations as an excuse to level down rights, especially in relation to redundancy. We look forward to using this decision to help defend our members' rights in many other companies as well as Rolls-Royce."
Rolls-Royce was unavailable for comment.