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Settlement secured for UNISON member subjected to age discrimination

Direct age discrimination is when, without legal justification, an employer treats an individual less favourably because of their age. The employee bringing the claim has to make a comparison between how he or she was treated and how another individual (either actual or hypothetical) of a different age would have been treated.

Indirect discrimination applies to policies and practices which, in reality, disadvantage one age group considerably more than another although, on the face of it, they seem to apply to all ages equally. Employers can also defend indirect discrimination if they can show legal justification.

UNISON member, Thomas Fleck, has settled an age discrimination case against his former employer, the Northern Regional College. Mr Fleck argued that he suffered both direct and indirect age discrimination in the College’s operation of a voluntary severance scheme.

The college’s scheme provided for a payment of one month’s pay for each year of service up to a maximum of 21 months’ pay. For those over pension age (in Mr Fleck’s case over 65) a ‘cap’ of six months’ pay was applied to the severance payment entitlement. Mr Fleck was employed by the college as a caretaker for 12 years and was granted voluntary severance, but the size of his severance payment, as he was over 65 when his employment came to an end, was capped at six months. Meanwhile, younger employees could recovered a month’s pay for each year of service up to a maximum of 21 months’ pay.

Mr Fleck, with the assistance of UNISON and George Kilpatrick from Thompsons NI’s employment rights unit, challenged the cap in his payment through a claim of age discrimination to the Office of the Industrial Tribunals and Fair Employment Tribunal. The claim has been settled, but the terms of settlement are confidential.

Mr Fleck said “I am delighted with the outcome of my tribunal case. This would not have been possible without the support of UNISON, as well as the help of George and the other members of the Employment Rights Unit in Thompsons NI, who provided a first class service to me.”

Marianne Buick, full time official at UNISON, commented: “As a member of UNISON, Tommy was entitled to free legal representation. This allowed him to secure the expert skills and experience of Thompsons NI, and, ultimately, a great result.”

If you require advice on your rights at work, make contact with your local trade union representative who can, if necessary, seek advice from Thompsons NI. This company is ranked by Chambers legal directory at Band 1 for employment and personal injury work.