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Cricket umpires lose age discrimination claim: Fixed retirement age gets them ‘off the top of the tree’

by on March 17, 2015

Reported here on the Sport24 website and here by BBC Sport, the former cricket umpires Peter Willey and George Sharp lost their age discrimination case against the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) last Friday. They had both been removed from the first-class umpire list when they reached the ECB’s ‘expected retirement age’ of 65.  The questions for the Employment Tribunal were whether this amounted to age discrimination and unfair dismissal.

The tribunal decided that, although age was the reason for their removal, this did not amount to either unfair dismissal or unlawful discrimination.

The themes of ‘other age groups’ and ‘fitness for work’ both appear in the media coverage. The ECB’s statement on the decision, as reported on the Sport24 website, cites ‘intergenerational fairness’ as part of the rationale for the retirement age. The Boards’s umpires manager Chris Kelly is reported to have told the tribunal that the board had taken the right decision, citing “physical and mental pressures”.

Interestingly, having a retirement age of 65 was upheld as a proportionate means of achieving the legitimate aim of ‘intergenerational fairness/succession planning’. The tribunal said: ‘A small group of 25 first class umpires sit at the top of the tree. They earn well, have secure jobs and an interesting and absorbing way of life involved in the sport they love. Waiting in the wings are a number of talented umpires keen to progress to what must be a dream job, the next best to being a first class player.’

They did not, however, uphold that the fixed retirement age was a proportionate means of achieving the aim of ‘preservation of dignity’. Moreover the tribunal were apparently at pains to point out that there was no question of poor performance by the claimants who were described as being at the ‘top of their profession’.

More information about the judgment is available from the website of Cloisters barristers via this link

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