Employee rights, age discrimination and redundancy

Posted on: 30 November 2012 by Nick Branch

A claim for age discrimination in redundancy can feel intimidating, not least because it will involve legal advice and money. Nick Branch investigates.

age discrimination against older workersThe landscape of the UK’s workforce is changing, reflecting a population distribution that today is more top heavy than it has ever been. The change in workforce demographic has prompted a string of legal developments, not least the scrapping of the default retirement age in 2011, and prior to that the implementation of laws to protect employees from age discrimination.

However there is a misconception that employers cannot discriminate according to age at all. In fact the law does permit discrimination, but only where it is a reasonable response to a legitimate aim. The example most often cited is that of a firm that employs younger staff for physical work on legitimate health and safety grounds.

Employers savvy to the latest age discrimination laws are increasingly turning to redundancy as a way to offload staff, and older workers seem to be more affected by this trend than others, prompting a rise in the number of older employees seeking out specialist solicitors for the elderly.

Early retirement

Redundancy can be offered in a situation where a company feels that a position is no longer required or affordable. However to legally make an employee redundant a company must do all it can to avoid or mitigate the process by offering voluntary redundancy or early retirement for those who wish to choose it, as well as alternative opportunities in other parts of the business. Flexible and short-time working must also be considered.

If redundancy is unavoidable, then a company must show a fair selection policy, looking at skills, qualifications, the standard of work completed by the employee and their attendance and disciplinary record. Failing to conduct a proper and thorough process opens a business up to claims of unfair dismissal, and this is particularly the case when making older employees redundant.

Age discrimination

Employers who make older employees redundant for no good reason are breaking the law, and open themselves up for unfair dismissal claims for age discrimination. Age discrimination is ‘automatically unfair’, which means that you can start a legal action regardless of how long you have worked for your employer.

Approaching a claim for age discrimination in redundancy can feel intimidating, not least because it will involve getting a lawyer and can involve months of hassle and cost. However taking early legal advice from a solicitor for the elderly, stating your case, and having your solicitor write a letter to your former employer is a good way to get the ball rolling. If you have a good case, this first step may be effective on its own.

If the response from your former employer is unsatisfactory, and you do decide to pursue a claim for age discrimination, then you can expect a decent settlement. Whilst age discrimination cases are falling in number, and the median payout is half what it was in 2010/11, the average case still pays over £19,000, a figure that does not include the majority of cases that are settled out of court.

For more information on solicitors for the elderly please visit Contact Law.

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