Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Age discrimination

The case of Mrs Cadman against the Health and Safety Executive puts a damper on some of the more excitable stories about what the Age Discrimination Regulation may mean.

Mrs Cadman suffered a detriment of £7,000 a year because she lost her place on the HSE's 'experience-based' pay scale by having children. Despite being fast-tracked for promotion, she still earned less than other employees who had spent more time in the junior ranks of inspectors.

The court decided that there was nothing intrinsically wrong with paying for greater experience. It was for Mrs Cadman to prove that experience was not useful to the employer. She could not do that by proving that, in a particular instance, another more experienced employee was in fact less use than she was. The case has now gone back to the Court of Appeal to decide whether or not she can prove a case.

This does not mean that experience can be cited ad lib as a reason for discrimination. An employer will have to be able to defend a case and this may be difficult in schools as far as main scales are concerned. However, it does mean that the kinds of excessive restrictions on adverts or job specifications suggested when the regulations came into force may turn out to be just an over-reaction.

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