TPO upholds age discrimination complaint against NI govt

The Pensions Ombudsman (TPO) has upheld a complaint against the Northern Irish Department of Finance (DoF) on the grounds of age discrimination.

The complaint was brought by Mr Y, who was denied compensation under the Compensation Scheme following his dismissal from the Civil Service in the Department of Regional Development (DRD), now the Department for Infrastructure, under the inefficiency sickness absence procedure, as he was over 60.

When applying for compensation, Mr Y was denied payment by the DoF as the compensation under the inefficiency sickness absence procedure was progressively withdrawn under a taper from the ages of 57 and 60.

TPO ruled that the cut-off point at age 60 was in breach of the non-discrimination rule and rule 5.1 of the Compensation Scheme.

It noted that the DoF had failed to discharge the burden of proof that the benefit structure is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim and it failed to demonstrate that an appropriate balance had been struck between the needs of the organisation and the discriminatory impact on Mr Y.

The ombudsman upheld the complaint of unlawful age discrimination and said it constituted to both maladministration and a breach of law.

TPO ordered the DoF, within 14 days, to contact the DRD and ask it to determine how much of the maximum two years’ lump sum benefit Mr Y should receive, drawing the DRD’s attention to the fact it has to comply with the non-discrimination rule.

Then, within 14 days of being notified of the DRD’s decision, pay Mr Y the appropriate percentage of benefits and provide a written explanation to him.

Additionally, the DoF was ordered to pay Mr Y £2,000 for the “severe distress and inconvenience” caused within 21 days.

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