The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has held that the compulsory retirement of police officers aged 48 or over with at least 30 years’ service was lawful.

Background

Pursuant to regulation A19 of the Police Pensions Regulations 1987, police authorities have the power to compulsorily retire police officers if they consider their retention is not in the general interests of the efficiency of the force, provided the officer has sufficient service to qualify for a pension of at least 2/3rds of their average pensionable pay. This generally means that the officer must be aged 48 or over with at least 30 years’ service.

Due to budget cuts required by the Government, police forces concluded that a reduction in officer numbers was needed and compulsorily retired a large number of officers who subsequently brought age discrimination claims.

What does this mean?

The EAT held that although the policy of retiring certain officers was discriminatory, the use of regulation A19 was objectively justified. The main issue was whether what was done was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. The aim in this case was said to be efficiency and certainty. The alternatives suggested such as seeking voluntary retirement, part time working or career breaks could not provide certainty. 

The EAT therefore held that the only way in which certainty of savings could reasonably be achieved was through regulation A19. This was appropriate and necessary.

What should employers do?

Employers should always ensure that any discriminatory practices on the grounds of age can be objectively justified as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

Case reference: West Midlands Police and others v Harrod and others