Mr Homer, aged 61, worked as a legal adviser with the Police National Legal Database.  He did not have a law degree having worked as a Police Officer before taking up this post in 1995.

In 2005 PNLD changed its career structure with the result that Mr Homer would not be eligible for promotion unless he completed a law degree. He claimed this was indirect age discrimination as his age group would not have time to complete a degree course before he reached the age at which he could be required to retire.

Success in the tribunal

The tribunal upheld this argument and then decided that although the Respondent had a legitimate aim in making promotion dependent on obtaining a law degree - recruiting and retaining quality employees - the requirement was not a proportionate means of achieving this aim and therefore it was not justified.

Overturned in the EAT

The EAT disagreed. It held that those within Mr Homer’s age group were no less able to obtain a law degree than any other age group and the fact that he might have retired before he had obtained a degree was a consequence of age not of discrimination: “Any improvement in terms which an employer gives will benefit older workers for a shorter period than younger ones”.

The EAT went on to say that if the requirement to have a law degree had been discriminatory it would have agreed with the tribunal that that discrimination was not justified.

Interestingly, the EAT hinted that if Mr Homer had argued his case differently, namely by arguing that older employees are less likely to have a degree as a much higher proportion of today’s student generation obtain degrees than in previous generations, the outcome might have been very different. 

The judgment is available here.

Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police and others v Homer UK EAT/0191/08/RN