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Chief Constable of West Midlands Police v Harrod and others UKEAT/0189/14; (2015) EMPLR 051
8 July 2015
Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT)
Early retirement of police officers was justified, and so not age discriminatory, since this was the only way in which the police force could achieve the budget cuts imposed on it.
Police forces were required to make 20% cuts in their budgets over four years. Since staffing costs represented 80% of their total costs, the only way to achieve this was to reduce staff numbers. Police officers cannot be made redundant. However, police forces have power to retire officers who are entitled to a full pension (ie they have 30 or more years of service) and if it is in the interests of efficiency to do so. So the only way of achieving the required reduction was to retire officers who qualified for a full pension.
Officers retired for this reason complained that they had been unlawfully discriminated against because of their age. The EAT accepted that enforced retirement of those with 30 or more years’ service was a ‘provision, criterion or practice’ which put those over 48 at a ‘particular disadvantage; so unless it could be justified, it would amount to indirect discrimination. The EAT held this was justified because there was no other way the police force could achieve the required cost reduction. The police were not relying solely on cost as justification (which may have been impermissible - see the Supreme Court’s decision in O’Brien v Ministry of Justice). They were relying both on cost and on efficiency, since manpower reductions to achieve savings, according to the EAT, came within ‘efficiency’.