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Financial services sector faces high risk of age discrimination claims

'Godfather of retail' case could be the start of many such actions

30 April 2015

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The financial services sector could be at a higher risk of age discrimination claims from former staff, according to a commercial law firm.

London and Milton Keynes-based EMW makes the claim after data from the Department for Work and Pensions, Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills, and the Office of National Statistics showed that 22 per cent of financial services workers are aged over 50, compared to an average of 29 per cent of workers across the UK workforce as a whole.

EMW explains that disgruntled former employees or rejected job applicants may potentially use these statistics in a tribunal case, in an attempt to prove that older staff were pushed out, not promoted, or denied employment.

Jon Taylor, principal at EMW, commented: 'For a lot of businesses, dealing with claims of this type can be a significant drain on management time, and some come to the conclusion that settling a claim before a tribunal is preferable to fighting it, even if it is meritless.

'Financial services businesses already have to tread a very fine line when it comes to laying off older staff. Any "points" systems identifying which staff are selected for redundancy programmes needs to be very carefully designed to ensure that age could not be perceived as a factor.'

Taylor added that the use of language in job advertisements was also critical: 'If a business states that a job would suit a new graduate or someone without a lot of experience, or even that a workplace is fast-moving or lively, that can form the basis of an age discrimination claim.'

There have been a number of successful high-profile age discrimination claims lodged by older staff against banks in recent years.

Retail analyst Tony Shiret - also known as 'the godfather of retail' - won a claim against his former employer, Credit Suisse Group AG, in 2013 after a tribunal found he had been unfairly dismissed at the age of 55.

In November 2013, Credit Suisse Group AG reached a confidential settlement with Shiret, who before his dismissal earned a salary of approximately £350,000.

The only sector with a smaller proportion of workers over 50 is the hospitality sector, which employs the largest proportion of 18 to 24-year-olds.

Conversely, sectors with the highest proportion of older workers were transport and education, both of which have highly unionised workforces and, in the case of education, recruit almost exclusively at graduate level and above.


John van der Luit-Drummond is deputy editor for Solicitors Journal | @JvdLD

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