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Retirement policy for football referees falls foul of the Age Regulations

07 May 2010 #Employment

In Martin and others v Professional Game Match Officials Ltd, an employment tribunal has found that a policy of retiring football assistant referees at age 48 constitutes direct age discrimination that cannot be justified. 

Age discrimination is unique amongst other forms of discrimination because direct age discrimination is permitted if it can be justified.  Regulation 3 of the Age Regulations provides that treatment which is a proportionate means to achieving a legitimate aim will not fall foul of the general prohibition against less favourable treatment on the grounds of age.  It was accepted that the referees` employer, the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), had adopted a discriminatory retirement policy, which meant that the Claimants had been treated less favourably on the grounds of their age than PGMOL would have treated other persons not of that age.  The issue before the tribunal was, therefore, whether or not that treatment could be justified.

The tribunal considered that PGMOL, in setting a discriminatory retirement policy, had the legitimate aim of creating of a career route for assistant referees.  The tribunal held, however, that the retirement policy could only be a proportionate means of achieving that legitimate aim if it could be shown that there was no less discriminatory way of achieving the creation of a career route.  The tribunal identified several alternative ways in which PGMOL could have achieved its aim in a less discriminatory way, finding that the retirement policy was not proportionate and therefore not capable of justification.  The Claimants` claims of direct age discrimination succeeded.

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