Judges have ruled that a man who was denied the chance of a job promotion because he did not hold a degree was the victim of workplace discrimination on grounds of his age.
In a landmark case that some experts believe could have wider ranging consequences for employers and how they recruit staff in future, Terence Homer, an ex-police officer who worked as an adviser on the Policy National Legal Database, claimed he was discriminated against after his employer introduced a new three-tier grading structure.
To reach the top tier, employees were required to have a law degree, which Mr Homer did not have and was not required to hold when he first took up his post.
Judges at the Supreme Court ruled that, as the 62-year-old would not have time to complete a four-year law degree before his retirement date, he had no chance of being promoted to the organisation’s top grade, which amounted to indirect discrimination on grounds of age.
However, the court said it was still open for the employer to justify the discriminatory requirement and referred the case back to the Employment Tribunal to consider this issue.
Nevertheless, legal experts have warned the ruling could have significant implications for employers’ recruitment and promotion processes, possibly restricting their ability to state holding a degree as prerequisite for job applicants.
“Employers will have to be cautious in their approach to requiring job applicants to have a degree, or failing to promote employees without a degree,” Chris Wellham, employment lawyer at Hogan Lovells, told the Telegraph.
“It will question whether high levels of experience is an acceptable substitute to having a degree.”
The Homer judgement was delivered alongside the much scrutinised Leslie Seldon case, in which Supreme Court judges ruled that it was possible for employers to force staff to retire if they could demonstrate it was in the “public interest”.