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When age discrimination is lawful

by on March 23, 2012

In what is described as a landmark ruling, the Court of Appeal has said it was lawful for an NHS trust to dismiss its chief executive Nigel Woodcock one month before his 50th birthday (when his pension entitlement would cost about £200,000). This was in order to avoid an enhanced pension entitlement that accrued if he continued to work until he was 50 (which would have cost the Trust up to £1m). The argument by the Trust was one of costs, that it needed to save taxpayers’ money.

This article in The Telegraph discusses the judgment and how it could allow employers legitimately to dismiss staff based on age – even though age discrimination in employment is broadly unlawful.

The issue turns on whether the discrimination is a proportionate way of achieving a legitimate aim, which is permitted by the legislation. And the Court of Appeal has decided in Mr Woodcock’s case that costs alone are justification.

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