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Obliging older police officers to retire was not age discrimination

The Employment Appeal Tribunal has ruled that a decision by several police forces to oblige some of their older officers to retire was not age discrimination as it was the only way to reduce staffing levels following budget cuts.

The tribunal heard evidence that the officers had been required to retire "in the general interests of efficiency".

The trigger for the imposition of enforced retirement was that each officer had served for 30 years, and thus qualified for a pension of two thirds average pensionable pay. Pensionable service began at the age of 18 and therefore officers as young as 48 were required to retire up to 17 years prior to their normal compulsory retirement age.

The officers brought claims for indirect age discrimination. The employment tribunal found that the police forces should have explored alternative options before going ahead in a blanket fashion and consequently, the resulting indirect age discrimination suffered by the officers was not justified.

Specifically, it stated that the practice of requiring the retirement of officers was not a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

That decision has been overturned by the Employment Appeal Tribunal. It held that the question was whether enforced retirement was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. The right way to characterise the forces' aim was that they wished to achieve the maximum practicable reduction in the numbers of their officers. That was unquestionably a legitimate aim.

The essential, and unusual, feature of the case was that, because of the absence of any general power to dismiss serving officers, the use of enforced retirement was the only option available.

There was no other legal way to reduce numbers on a mass basis. In those circumstances, it was hard to see how its use could be said to be disproportionate.

To find out more about JPP's employment law services please visit employment law

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