Age-Related Issues in Employment Situations

Age-Related Issues in Employment Situations

Discrimination in the work place is often a high profile and issue, whether relating to sex, race, religion, disability or age.  And it’s the issue of age and the potential for discrimination and unfairness in relation to redundancy and retirement that has recently attracted judicial attention.  Whether you are an employee or an employer - if you have concerns relating to age discrimination in the workplace, contact our experience employment lawyers at Parris Whittaker for prompt advice.

The Law

The law relating to work-place discrimination in the Bahamas is found in the Employment Act 2001 (section 6).  Under the Act, employers are prohibited from discriminating against workers or applicants for employment on the basis of a number of factors including sex, marital status and age.  All workers (of any age) are protected from age discrimination – unless this conflicts with a contract or law stipulating a retirement age.

 

Bahamian law is derived from English common law; and court rulings in the English courts therefore have persuasive authority in The Bahamas.  Employment law is, by its very nature, fast changing in the UK and a recent ruling in its Supreme Court has clarified the issue of forced retirement based on an employer’s age (Seldon v Clarkson Wright and Jakes (A Partnership) [2012] UKSC 16). 

In this case, a lawyer lost his challenge against his firm’s right to retire him at the age of 65. He alleged that his forced retirement was an act of direct age discrimination and the firm’s subsequent decision to withdraw the offer of an ex gratia payment was an act of victimisation.  The court ruled that to justify a policy it is not sufficient for an employer to show it has an aim that is capable of being a public interest aim; it needs to show in addition that it is actually a legitimate aim in the particular circumstances of the employment.

What should businesses do?

In the light of this, employers should review their retirement policies and check the rationale for a compulsory retirement age.  The ruling is also a reminder for businesses to ensure their recruitment and redundancy procedures are watertight to minimise the risk of age-related discrimination claims. The damage sustained by businesses in the wake of discrimination claims can be disastrous and businesses should protect themselves where possible.

If you think you have been discriminated in the workplace on the basis of your age, or if you are an employer at risk of an age-related discrimination claim, consult us for expert legal advice.  The experienced employment and dispute resolution lawyers at Parris Whittaker will give you urgent advice and represent your interests where needed.