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Social Housing Company Cleared of Age Discrimination

In the context of a redundancy process in which workers competed with each other to keep their jobs, it was reasonable for the employer to expect that each of them would look after their own interests. An Employment Tribunal (ET) so ruled in clearing a social housing company of age discrimination.

The case concerned two men, aged in their sixties, who had worked for the company and the local authority that wholly owned it for more than 30 years. Following a restructuring of their department in the midst of deep budget cuts, they were amongst those who were selected for redundancy.

They argued that they were disadvantaged during the process because of their age and that the company may have viewed younger colleagues as a better long-term investment. Younger employees were more familiar with modern recruitment techniques and how to hone their CVs to meet competency requirements.

In dismissing their claims, however, the ET found that the company had treated all those threatened with redundancy in exactly the same way. Of 26 members of staff made redundant, 20 were aged under 60, and one woman over that age had been kept on by the company. There was thus no pattern that undermined the company’s plea that the outcome of the process had nothing to do with age.

The ET noted that employees involved in the process were entitled to do all they could in order to stay in their jobs or be redeployed. It was within the band of reasonableness for the company to expect them to look out for themselves, even if that meant keeping their jobs at the expense of someone else losing theirs. There was nothing unfair in the company’s decision not to shortlist the men for interview and it had done enough to offer them alternative posts before dismissing them.