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Employment Tribunal Statistics show the cost of Age Discrimination

The Ministry of Justice has recently published its annual statistics for Employment tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal for the year ending 31 March 2011.

The statistics show there has been a huge increase in the number of claims relating to age discrimination, up 32% from last year. Awareness of this area of discrimination is constantly increasing and the publicity surrounding the abolition of the default retirement age in October this year will have likely both raised awareness of employees’ rights and perhaps provoked some businesses to seek to ‘retire’ employees before the retirement age is fully abolished. In addition, restructures and re-organisation of businesses as a result of the financial constraints could have had an adverse impact on both younger employees as they find themselves first in line for selection for redundancy and older employees who may be encouraged to accept early retirement.

The average awards for discrimination range from around £8500 for religious discrimination to around £14,100 for disability discrimination. However, in relation to the protected characteristic of age this again stands out with an average award of £30,289 far exceeding the average for all other areas of discrimination law. This could be a result of older employees suffering career- long loss if they are unable to obtain further work or could reflect some employers’ struggle to implement practices and ways of working which do not discriminate in some way against employees’ because of their age.

The figures speak for themselves and show the importance of ensuring employers have clear policies on equal opportunities and, in particular , an appreciation of the ways in which discrimination can take place inadvertently because of age. In light of the abolition of the retirement age this year it will be interesting to see whether the statistics continue to rise in relation to age discrimination or whether this really was an exceptional year for age discrimination claims.

For further information or advice, please contact Liane Atkin at liane.atkin@collingwoodlegal.com, or telephone Liane on 0191 282 2886.

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