In the case of Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police v Homer, the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) has held that a requirement to possess a degree in order to be eligible for the employer's highest pay band did not indirectly discriminate against an employee on the grounds of age.

The EAT held that, in principle, it was no more difficult for an older than a younger person to obtain a degree.

Impact on employers

This is an interesting but case-specific decision. Mr Homer presented his claim on the basis of the specific detriment that he suffered because at age 61 he could not obtain a degree prior to retirement. He did not argue his case on the grounds of a general disadvantage, for example, that people in the 60-65 year old age group are less likely than other age groups to have a degree. Had a claim been brought on that basis, with appropriate statistical evidence, the outcome could well have been different.

Employers should give careful thought to the conditions they attach to job applications, promotions and pay increases. Some comfort can be taken from this decision that the imposition of a requirement for an academic qualification will not necessarily be discriminatory. However, employers are advised to consider whether a requirement for an academic qualification is strictly necessary or could be met in a different way, for example, by relevant experience and an alternative qualification.