The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has ruled that police
officers who were forced to retire were not victims of unlawful indirect age
Since 2010, police officers have been forced to retire after
30 years’ service due to a regulation known as the ‘A19 Programme’ founded in
the Police Pensions Act 1987. This provision
was put in place to make efficiency savings due to cuts to police force funding.
As a result, over a thousand officers
filed claims at the Employment Tribunal (ET) for indirect age discrimination.
Indirect age discrimination requires a provision, criterion
or practice which applies to all staff but which puts people in a certain age
group at a particular disadvantage. In
this case, it was argued that the A19 Programme applies to all officers but is
a provision which puts officers of a certain age (i.e. over 48) at a particular
disadvantage because they would be required to retire.
Indirect discrimination is not however unlawful if it is
justified as being a proportionate way of achieving a legitimate aim. On this basis, the EAT overturned the ET’s decision
because such a provision was justified by the need to reduce police officer
numbers in order to make necessary financial cuts.
It was argued by the police force that there was no viable
alternative to meet the financial challenges that faced the police forces. Indeed, since invoking the rule, the forces
have saved £66m – a much needed result considering the Home Office funding to
the police has been cut by 25% in real terms since 2010.
It is important to note that police officers are not
employees and that their office will only terminate upon retirement (unless
found guilty of misconduct or capability).
It was the EAT’s view therefore
that the age restriction could be justified by the fact that there is no power
to make a police officer redundant.