Awarding points for long service, when selecting employees for redundancy, is not discriminatory under the age discrimination regulations, the Court of Appeal ruled today in Rolls Royce v Unite.
The High Court said: "The criterion of length of service respects the loyalty and experience of the older workforce and protects the older employees from being put onto the labour market at a time when they are particularly likely to find employment hard to find."
Rolls Royce had argued that taking long service into account when selecting workers for redundancy amounted to indirect age discrimination and wanted to ignore length of service when making redundancies.
Unite general secretary Derek Simpson said: "We are delighted with this decision. The ruling sets a precedent, where other factors are equal, for protecting older workers from the effects of redundancy. It has always been clear to Unite that loyalty seen in length of service should be recognised when an employer takes the drastic step of making redundancy dismissals.
"We look forward to using this decision to help defend our members' rights in many other companies as well as Rolls Royce.
At time of writing, Personnel Today was unable to get comment from Rolls Royce.
Commenting on the Court of Appeal's ruling, Rachel Dineley, head of diversity and discrimination at Beachcroft, said: "This case is a win for many older employees. In difficult times, most employers wish to have maximum flexibility in deciding who to retain and who to let go, but collective agreements may govern this matter.
"The relevant regulation – number 32 of the 2006 Age Discrimination Regulations – allows employers to use length of service as a criterion for awarding benefits, provided that where more than five years' service is taken into account, it reasonably appears to the employer to fulfil a business need. The scope of the regulation is not limited to more tangible benefits, such as health insurance, annual leave and pay increments."
She added: "In the light of this decision, employers who historically have included points for length of service in thei