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Don’t offer chairs to older workers?

Posted
April 19, 2024
Employment Law

We recently noticed coverage in the media of the Employment Tribunal judgment in the case of Edreira v Severn Waste Services. So does this judgment mean that it’s now discriminatory to offer older employees a chair?

Some brief facts

Mr Edreira worked for Severn Waste Services (SWS) from 2006 until his dismissal in October 2023. Following his dismissal, he claimed that he had been subjected to age discrimination and harassment because he had reached the age of 66. He believed SWS regarded this as being their retirement age and were looking to remove him from his employment.

Amongst other things, Mr Edreira claimed that at the same time as making other changes to his role, out of the blue, his manager had offered him a chair so that he could sit down whilst performing his duties. The employee observed that no other employees were offered a chair and he himself had not asked for one. A question arose as to whether the offer of the chair could be seen as being detrimental or disadvantageous to the employee, such that it could amount to unlawful age discrimination. The Birmingham Employment Tribunal concluded that the offer of a chair could conceivably amount to unlawful age discrimination, if it constituted different (indeed unusual) treatment when compared to the treatment afforded to others. However, crucially, Mr Edreira’s arguments proved unsuccessful in this particular case.

Just ‘clickbait’?

The coverage of this case found in both The Times and MailOnline have emphasised heavily the idea that offering chairs to older workers could now give rise to Employment Tribunal claims. However, this proposition is, in our view, overstated. The Birmingham Employment Tribunal did not rule out the prospect of a successful discrimination claim based on such circumstances. However the fact that the claim failed in this case is significant. If, in the normal course of events, employers were to politely offer older employees a chair, especially if it was because of known health issues, the material risk of grievances or Employment Tribunal claims is surely vanishingly small. As a result, we question whether the widespread coverage of decisions such as these is particularly helpful in improving the public's understanding of the laws in this area. Or, on the contrary, do they have the potential to bring our equality laws unfairly into disrepute.

What are your thoughts?

If you are interested, you may want to read the Daily Mail coverage of this case which can be found via the link here.

Is this article a help or a hindrance in terms of improving the common understanding and appreciation of our equality laws? Let us know your thoughts.

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