Age discrimination cases up 530% in last year

An analysis of recent employment tribunal claims by law firm Wright Hassall shows a significant rise in age discrimination cases.



Age discrimination cases have risen by 530% since the pandemic,  according to a report from law firm Wright Hassall.

Nevertheless, over the last decade the number of age discrimination cases has been relatively low, with only 56,911 cases being taken out, compared to 456,210 under the Working Time Directive, the most common complaint. The latter protects the rights of workers in terms of how much time they can legally be asked to work, as well as guaranteeing a set minimum number of paid holidays and rest hours between shifts, amongst other things.

In 2020/21, however, Working Time Directive claims were second to unfair dismissals and, since the pandemic, the biggest increase in tribunal cases has been in those related to part-time regulations [up 767%] and age discrimination. Part-time regulations are designed to protect part-time workers, ensuring that they are treated equally to their full-time counterparts, and are not discriminated against because of their part-time status. Age discrimination cases related to people being treated differently at work due to their age, allowing them to work on an equal footing with younger or older colleagues.

The most successful cases relate to a failure to follow proper procedures in redundancy which have a success rate of around 94%. 29.5% of age discrimination cases were settled out of court. Only 9% went to tribunal with 20% of these successful – the lowest success rate for tribunal action in the 22 top reasons for tribunals, although other categories had a lower overall success rate [settlements and tribunals]. 38% of part-time regulation cases were successful at tribunal and 33% of sex discrimination cases. Equal pay claims had the lowest combined score as less than 1% went to tribunal, although when they did go to tribunal they were more successful than age discrimination cases.

The report shows a long-term trend for fewer cases to be settled out of tribunal without going to a hearing, a rise in the success rate of hearings and an overall decrease in successful cases due to the fall in settlements which it says tips the balance in employers’ favour. This may in part be linked to the introduction of fees between 2013 and 2017 which led to a fall in claims being issued.

However, since the pandemic there has been an increase in out of court settlements of 9.75% against pre-pandemic levels. 9.58% fewer cases are reaching hearings than the previous year, which could be explained by external pressures from the coronavirus outbreak, says the report. While out of court settlements have risen, the success rate of hearings has fallen, with 4.11% fewer successful hearings. This has resulted in a small rise in overall successful outcomes of 2.85%.


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