Sackings on age grounds are ruled unlawful: Tribunal backs older workers' rights

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The Independent Online
Discrimination on the grounds of age has been accepted as unlawful for the first time by an industrial tribunal.

Three production workers, all over 60, were yesterday awarded a total of more than pounds 40,000 for being made redundant by a company making black cabs.

Carbodies, a Coventry firm, issued a statement in the summer of 1992 declaring that all employees over the age of 59 would be dismissed. Some of the sacked workers disputed their dismissals, claiming they were the victims of 'ageism'.

A Birmingham industrial tribunal agreed in March that they had been unlawfully dismissed and yesterday awarded 62-year-old Ray Walker pounds 12,348, 61-year-old Larry Nolan, pounds 16,047 and Peter Kiddy, 62, pounds 12,767.

Unlike the United States, there is no statute which explicity outlaws 'ageism', but the tribunal ruled in favour of the workers because the 1978 Employment Protection Act listed a series of legitimate reasons for making employees redundant, but age was not one of them. While industrial tribunals do not create hard and fast precedents, the ruling will be cited in future cases and will encourage other victims of alleged 'ageism' to take action.

Mike Robinson, regional officer for the union Manufacturing Science Finance, said that employers who used age as an excuse for getting rid of people would now have to think again. 'This is the first case where an industrial tribunal has said that employers must not cite only age when making people redundant.' There had been other cases where employers had used age as one of the factors.

Mr Robinson argued that the awards would have been much higher if the law did not dictate a pounds 10,000 limit on the compensation element of awards. The additional payments were made up of statutory redundancy pay.

The union argued that Mr Kiddy and Mr Nolan had probably lost more than pounds 50,000 - the equivalent of three or four years' wages. The union also alleged that Carbodies had used the company's pension fund in order to pay statutory minimum severance payments.

Sally Greengross, director general of Age Concern England, said the dismissals, which involved 30 workers over the age of 59, was a blatant case of discrimination on the grounds of age. 'We are delighted the industrial tribunal has recognised it as such.

'Age Concern is completely opposed to any decision about older workers based purely on their age. Such discrimination takes no account of the experience, expertise or ability that employees may have.'

The company was not available for comment last night.