Plewes v Adams Pork Products Limited – Employment Tribunal

Facts

Mr Plewes worked as a production operative for Adams Pork Products Limited. His contract of employment stated that his normal retirement date was the day before his 65th birthday. Despite his request to continue working, Mr Plewes was required by Adams to retire on this day, in accordance with his contract.

Less than 3 weeks following his dismissal, he was re-engaged in his previous position as a worker via an employment agency, but on a lower salary.

He commenced Tribunal proceedings against Adams under Regulation 3 of the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 ("the Age Regulations"), claiming that his dismissal was discriminatory on the grounds of age. Adams argued that it had complied with the statutory retirement procedure, and that his dismissal was lawful.

The Tribunal's decision

Regulation 30 of the Age Regulations states that an employer will not be guilty of unlawful discrimination if it dismisses an employee at or over the age of 65, where the reason for the dismissal is retirement. The Tribunal held that Adams could not rely on this exemption as it only applies to retirement dismissals where the employee is 65 or older, and not where the employee is required to retire the day before his 65th birthday.

The Tribunal found that Adams was not able to objectively justify the dismissal and held it to be discriminatory. It awarded compensation to Mr Plewes of over £36,000 which included an award of £7,500 for injury to feelings. As Adams conceded that it did not follow the Statutory Dismissal Procedure when dealing with Mr Plewes' termination (due to its mistaken belief that it was able to lawfully retire him), the maximum 50% uplift to his compensatory award was applied.

Comment

Had Adams dismissed Mr Plewes in accordance with the statutory retirement procedure on his 65th birthday, merely one day later, his dismissal would have been fair. This decision illustrates the fact that care should be taken by employers to ensure strict compliance with the Age Regulations when dealing with all dismissals by reason of retirement. Furthermore, we recommend that all contracts of employment and internal policies should be thoroughly reviewed to ensure compliance with the Age Regulations, and the law generally, to minimise the risk of potentially costly breaches arising in practice.