In a case highlighting the importance of the age discrimination legislation, the EAT has upheld the tribunal's decision in London Borough of Tower Hamlets v Wooster that an employee suffered age discrimination when his employer made him redundant prior to his 50th birthday in order to avoid him becoming entitled to enhanced early retirement terms.

Prior to his redundancy, Mr Wooster was seconded to a registered social landlord. This organisation had indicated a willingness to continue to pay his salary so that he could continue to work until his 50th birthday, but Tower Hamlets rejected this offer and failed to pursue the option of redeploying Mr Wooster. When the secondment ended, Mr Wooster was informed that the council's redundancy process had been started and he reluctantly accepted voluntary redundancy.

The EAT agreed that, in the circumstances, the tribunal had been entitled to conclude that a motivating factor in the council's decision to make Mr Wooster redundant had been the additional costs of allowing him to take an immediate early retirement pension at age 50. The council had been influenced by Mr Wooster's age and imminent early retirement in a way it would not have been for a person of a different age. This amounted to direct age discrimination.

Impact on employers

The council is reported to be appealing this decision but, in any event, the case emphasises the importance of basing redundancy decisions on objective, justifiable and non-discriminatory criteria and of following proper procedure.