First-class umpires lose age discrimination case

23rd March 2015

Peter Willey and George Sharp, first-class umpires with 40 international matches umpired between them, have lost their age discrimination and unfair dismissal claims against the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB). The two were forced to retire aged 65 in line with the ECB's compulsory retirement age policy.
The default retirement age was abolished by government legislation in 2011 and since then employers have only been able to force employees to retire at a certain age if they can show that the policy exists to meet a legitimate aim, which it does meet, and it is a proportionate way of meeting that aim.
The ECB argued, and the Tribunal accepted, that the policy was justified as a means of pursuing the aims of bringing on new talent and succession planning. The additional argument that one of the ECB's aims was avoiding disputes about potential failing capability and preserving the dignity of the umpires, was rejected.
Of particular note to the Tribunal was the fact that no one had ever known a first class umpire to retire before the compulsory retirement age, and this was indeed affecting the number of vacancies for those roles and inter-generational fairness.
The Tribunal also considered carefully whether the age at which the policy was set was appropriate and justified. It found that the age of 65 was justified, for the time being. The ECB's position was strengthened by the fact that it had an existing written policy in place which set out the policy and the justification for it.
For employers, the case remains that it is their decision whether or not to have a fixed retirement age policy. Employers may wish to review any retirement policy they have in light of the above case and assess whether it is justified and appropriate for the business. However, where employers do have a fixed retirement age policy they must remember that the age at which retirement is set, as well as the policy itself, must be capable of objective justification. If performance or capability issues arise with an employee before retirement age, or in the absence of a fixed retirement age policy, these should be dealt with in the usual way, as they would for any employee.
For more information, please contact the employment team on 0845 111 5050.


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