An employment tribunal has ruled in favour of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) after two former first class umpires challenged a policy that they should retire at 65.
The London tribunal found that the board had not discriminated against or unfairly dismissed George Sharp and Peter Willey, even though its 25 first class umpires (FCUs) are the only ECB employees subject to a normal retirement age of 65.
Mr Willey and Mr Sharp had submitted requests to work beyond 65 – an option included in the ECB’s FCU policy – in early 2014 but these were refused and subsequent appeals were unsuccessful.
The tribunal heard that the ECB maintained a set retirement age for FCUs for a number of reasons. These included supporting intergenerational fairness and succession planning, by creating opportunities for former players to become first class umpires, and the potential loss of dignity that would be involved in umpires ending their careers for performance reasons rather than “retiring with their heads held high”.
The default retirement age of 65 was scrapped in 2011 but an organisation can still operate a specific retirement age, provided it can demonstrate that it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
The tribunal ruled that retirement at 65 was a proportionate means of achieving the ECB’s legitimate aim of intergenerational fairness/succession planning – which enabled the career progression of other, younger umpires and players – but that preservation of dignity was not a legitimate aim.
The tribunal said: “Mr Sharp and Mr Willey…honestly felt that at 65 they still had plenty to give. In the absence of medical evidence to the contrary we agree that they are probably right that a higher retirement age would still ensure that dignity was protected in the majority of cases.”
The case is a useful reminder that employers will need robust justification for maintaining a specific retirement age.
Businesses wishing to adopt such a policy may find it helpful to seek expert employment law advice, to ensure that they meet the proportionate means to a legitimate aim test, and to assist in keeping retirement policies up to date and fit for purpose. For more information, please contact our employment law team.