Senior Employee’s Case Study – Age Discrimination

Q: An employer makes changes to its benefits provisions, which seem to favour younger employees. You are keen to remain in post but feel you may be being "manoeuvred out". What action can you take?

  • It is unlawful under UK law for an employer to discriminate against an employee on the grounds of their age.
  • This includes indirect discrimination, where a "provision, criterion or practice" is applied that is easier for employees of one particular age group to adhere to than it is for others.
  • A deliberate attempt to push out older employees would almost certainly fall within the scope of the law preventing age discrimination.
  • The employee may be able to resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal on the grounds that the discriminatory benefits provisions amount to sufficiently unreasonable conduct by the employer that the employee is entitled to treat the contract as having come to an end. They could also claim age discrimination.
  • The employer would only be able to defend a claim brought by the employee on these grounds if they were able to show that the unfavourable treatment was a "proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim".
  • It seems unlikely an employer would be able convincingly to justify the provision of benefits that deliberately disadvantage older employees.

A successful unfair dismissal claim will entitle the employee to compensation up to a statutory maximum. However, compensation for discrimination is not subject to a statutory cap. See Unfair Dismissal.