An employment tribunal found age discrimination in asking a 60-year-old to tell them when they will retire.

Judge ruled that a 30-year-old wouldn’t be asked questions about plans to quit work, as they are not in a place to begin taking their pension.

James Bax, an Employment Judge said that a person approaching retirement age should not be given the chance to retire if they are willing to work. 

Ian Tapping (a civil servant in his 60s) successfully sued his former employer, the MOD, for age discrimination. 

This experienced officer had complained about his bosses and was afraid he might lose his job.

The panel was able to hear his retirement plans during a discussion with HR.

A 30-year-old would not be asked about their plans to stop work because they would not be in a position to start taking their pension, a judge found (file image)

Judge found that a 30-year-old wouldn’t be asked about plans to quit work, as they are not in a place to begin taking their pension.

This was claimed by the MoD to be necessary in order to manage employees effectively and plan for new hires when staff leave.

Judge Bax, however, ruled that it was unreasonable to question Mr Tapping whether he plans to retire. He had not indicated that he wanted to quit his job.

He stated that the MoD’s retirement recommendation was meant to remove aggrieved persons from the problems.

Judge Bax stated that Mr Tapping was in his 60s, and could therefore be considered eligible to begin drawing on a retirement pension in the near future or at that point.

“A person in their 30s wouldn’t be in such an unfortunate situation as they wouldn’t be able take out a pension at that point.”

“Mr Tapping had expressed concern about his career, but had not indicated that he wanted to quit his job. It was not reasonable to ask Mr Tapping to think about when he would retire in the situation of someone who wants to be certain that his job is secure.

Now Mr Tapping can apply for compensation.

Tribunal heard that Mr Tapping was a project manager and worked in the RAF’s Air Information Documents Unit – which is responsible for the interplay of civilian and military aircraft.

Matthew Harrison was Mr Tapping’s line manager from the beginning of 2016, when he started his role. He was also the leader of the Integrated User Services Team.

M. Tapping informed Mr Harrison in October 2017 that he had fibromyalgia. This long-term condition causes severe pain, headaches, and tiredness.

Judge Bax ruled it was 'unreasonable' to ask Mr Tapping about whether he would retire as he had shown no indication of wanting to leave his job (file image)

Judge Bax decided it was unreasonable to question Mr Tapping whether he will retire, since he showed no desire to quit his job. File image

According to him, his work load had become “unmanageable” as he was responsible for the work of only one and a quarter people.

But, he did not ask for help and was eventually moved from the project.

The grievance was brought by Mr Tapping against Harrison because Harrison failed to provide reasonable adjustments.

A senior official told Mr Tapping that he must drop his complaint during a meeting. The official stated that Mr Tapping would lose his job if he did not do a great job on the next assignment.

According to the tribunal, Mr Tapping believed that the MOD official threatened his job future. The tribunal heard that Mr Tapping was threatening to endanger his future at the MOD.

At the hearing, it was revealed that Mr Tapping had spoken to an employee of MoD’s Employee Services Team about instigating bullying and harassment claims while off-duty in September 2018.

According to the tribunal, “Mr Tapping’s testimony referred to her asking questions in order to infer that he was reluctant to work and she asked a question about when he would retire.”

“He told her that he didn’t have a retirement plan, but assumed it would come on his 67th birthday.

Mr Tapping claimed that he was offended by the comment. He did not believe that a 35-year old would be asked this question.

Finally, Mr Tapping quit in January 2020. He sued his employers.

Judge Bax stated that Mr Tapping had been in an unfortunate situation. He was concerned about the MOD’s employment.

It’s not the solution to the matter at hand, but it can help remove the aggrieved from the situation.

“The MOD used a defense to justify, and in particular on the need or aim to manage employees effectively and provide succession planning.

“For somebody who seeks reassurance about their job and security, it’s not reasonable and proportionate to inquire if they might be considering quitting.

I was not convinced that Mr Tapping intended to carry out the stated objective. In any case, it wasn’t reasonable or proportionate in the particular circumstances.

“Mr Tapping’ was, therefore, treated less favorably because of his age.

He succeeded in claiming that the MOD failed to make reasonable adjustments and discrimination arising out of disability, harassment related disability, age discrimination.

Other claims that he was unfairly treated because of whistleblowing and direct disability discrimination were also dismissed.

At a later time, a remedy hearing will be held to determine the amount of compensation Mr Tapping will receive.