Former Freshfields partner brings age discrimination case

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The Independent Online

A former partner at one of London's leading law firms is making a claim against the company in one of the first cases of age discrimination in the UK brought under a new European directive.

Peter Bloxham, 54, has filed a discrimination claim at the London Employment Tribunal against his former partners at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

Mr Bloxham, former head of insolvency at the firm, was one of about 30 Freshfields partners around the world who chose to retire last year after the company changed the terms of its pensions benefits. He opted to retire with a full pension under the firm's previous system rather than accept cuts of as much as 40 per cent under the new pension regime if he had stayed.

Joanne Keddie, Mr Bloxham's lawyer, confirmed her client has lodged a claim against his former firm. "He regrets being forced into taking such action," she said. "Since the details of the claim are presently the subject of Employment Tribunal proceedings, it would be inappropriate to pass any further comment at this time."

On 1 October, the UK adopted a European directive making it illegal to discriminate based on age. About 250 claims have been filed since then from employees of companies across the country, although none of the cases has yet been heard, a spokeswomen for the Employment Tribunal said.

Partners at Freshfields earned about £830,000 on average in the year to April 2006. Last year, the firm abandoned its system of distributing profits equally around the world and voted to appoint salaried partners for the first time. From last May, partners were to receive a maximum of £153,000 a year in retirement, as much as 40 per cent less than under its previous plan. About one third of partners eligible for early retirement decided to leave when the changes were announced.

Guy Morton, the company's senior partner, has previously said its old pension plan was not sustainable. Freshfields declined to comment yesterday, but has previously said around half of its 30 retired partners continued to work as consultants for the firm.