May 26, 2004 – LAWFUEL – A group of 70 pilots and cabin crew are considering appealing a decision by an Employment Tribunal that they did suffer “lawful” discrimination.
The group took their test case to Watford Employment Tribunal in January this year to claim British Airways’ retirement age of 55 constituted discrimination.
The tribunal issued its decision on Friday (21 May 2004), saying that the women in the group had suffered discrimination but that this was lawful on the grounds that the cost of changing BA’s policy would have been too high.
City law firm Charles Russell is representing the group, and their counsel is Robin Allen QC.
Members of the group, some of whom worked for British Caledonian when it was taken over by British Airways in 1988, argued they wanted the original employer’s retirement age of 60 to continue to apply to all employees at BA.
Any pilots or cabin crew employed after 1971, including those taken over from British Caledonian, have to retire at 55 while the retirement age of anyone employed before 1971 is 60.
There are still no laws in the UK banning workplace age discrimination, and the group argued that the retirement age constitutes sex discrimination because more women than men are affected.
Paul Quain and Sophie Whitbread, of Charles Russell’s Employment and Pensions Department, are representing the group. Paul Quain said: “Members of the group are obviously disappointed by this initial decision. They just wanted the retirement age at British Airways to be extended to 60 in common with many other airlines in the UK and abroad.
“It is a highly complex case and it is very interesting to see that the tribunal accepts the women, especially, had been subject to discrimination but that this was justified on the grounds of cost, and therefore lawful.
“The group are now considering whether to appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.”
There are no laws in the UK banning workplace age discrimination. When an EU directive does ban it from 2006, this will not be retrospective and so will not apply to people who have suffered age discrimination before then.
Paul Quain also advises Mr John Rutherford in the high-profile “age discrimination” case with Mr Samuel Bentley against the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. A decision from the Court of Appeal is expected shortly. For full details, please click on this link: http://www.cr-law.co.uk/news/viewarticle.asp?newsid=60