Miss Lockwood began working at the Department for Work and Pensions (“DWP”) in October 1999. She was then aged 18 and worked as an Administrative Officer. In April 2007, a voluntary redundancy scheme was put into place. Miss Lockwood applied for redundancy and her application was accepted.

As a 26 year old with 8 years’ service, DWP’s redundancy scheme entitled Miss Lockwood to £10,849.04. However, had Miss Lockwood been over 35 when leaving DWP, she would have received £17,690.58, despite having worked an identical length of time.

Miss Lockwood claimed direct age discrimination, but her claim to the Employment Tribunal (“ET”) was dismissed. The ET held that there were material differences between the Miss Lockwood’s age group (under 35) and the comparator group (over 35). The two were not truly comparable. The ET also held that even if they were, DWP would have been able to objectively justify the difference in treatment.

Miss Lockwood appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (“EAT”).

EAT’s decision

Miss Lockwood’s appeal was dismissed.

The EAT held that the circumstances of Miss Lockwood and her comparator group (over 35s) were not materially similar. The EAT agreed with the ET that the different payments were to reflect the comparative loss of employment suffered by older workers (in terms of finding another job and family commitments).

The EAT then went on to apply Seldon in relation to the when looking at the justification issue. The EAT held that DWP’s aim of providing a financial cushion for workers until alternative employment is found was a legitimate aim and proportional when balanced against the disparate treatment of younger workers. This aim fulfilled the public interest requirements of Seldon and Article 6(1) of Framework Directive 2000/78/EC.

The judgment is available here

This case was appealed to the Court of Appeal. A summary of that decision is available here.

Mr R Lockwood v Department for Work and Pensions; The Cabinet Office,[2013] UKEAT 0094_12_0402