Age Discrimination, Redundancy and the Burden of Proof – Guideline Ruling


Where an older employee is treated less favourably than a younger one in a similar position, the burden shifts onto the employer to prove that age discrimination had no effect on its decision-making. An Employment Tribunal (ET) made that point in the case of an administration manager who was made redundant at the age of 67.

The man had worked for a car sales company for more than 20 years when he was selected for redundancy. He contended that his dismissal was pre-determined and motivated by his age. The company asserted that it was conducting a necessary restructuring exercise and that his selection followed a fair procedure.

Ruling on the matter, the ET found that the principal reason for his dismissal was, as the company asserted, redundancy. Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company had to reorganise its business and had a commercial and economic reason for making redundancies.

The ET did not consider that the manager who decided on the man’s selection for redundancy was guilty of conscious age discrimination. The man was warned in advance that his job was at risk and steps were taken to conduct a fair consultation and selection process and to minimise job losses.

In nevertheless upholding his age discrimination complaint, the ET found that he was less favourably treated than a younger colleague. There was no material difference between them in terms of skills and qualifications. Given those findings, it was for the company to provide an explanation. It had failed to provide cogent evidence of a non-discriminatory reason for the difference in treatment.

Also upholding his unfair dismissal claim, the ET noted that the redundancy process lacked transparency. It could not be discerned from the available evidence whether the selection criteria were applied fairly. His dismissal also did not fall within the range of reasonable responses in that it was tainted by age discrimination. The amount of his compensation, if not agreed, would be assessed at a further hearing.

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