Age discrimination may be justifiable on grounds of costs to an employer

An employee was unsuccessful in his claim of age discrimination when he sought to argue that his employer had rushed through the redundancy process to be able to dismiss him before he reached his 50th birthday. The employee would have gained extra benefits upon redundancy once he reached 50 years of age. It was decided that this was an act of age discrimination but that it was justifiable because the employee had been placed in a temporary role for a period before the redundancy and therefore had already had his employment extended and was not under any expectation that his employment would continue beyond his 50th birthday.

It was said in this case that an employer should be able to justify an action that produces a discriminatory impact on the basis that the cost of avoiding the impact would be disproportionately high. Previous case law has said the opposite; that cost alone would not be a sufficient reason to justify an act of age discrimination. This decision may represent a change of heart by the Employment Tribunals in the current economic climate but we will see if this commentary is followed in future cases.