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When discrimination comes down to a matter of degrees

When discrimination comes down to a matter of degrees

Professional status and the level of pay that accompanies years of learning is a hot topic for many financial advisers who have kept an eye on a recent age discrimination case that could have a huge impact on careers.

The kerfuffle surrounds a Supreme Court ruling in the case of Homer v West Yorkshire Police.

The police force’s policy required civil servants working for the Police National Legal Database (PNLD) to have a law degree if they wanted to attain the highest pay grade.

Mr Homer joined the PNLD in 1995 and was turned down for promotion and more money because he did not have a degree.

He took a claim to an employment tribunal on the grounds that the decision amounted to indirect age discrimination under equality laws because he did not have enough time between the application and his retirement to study and pass a degree course.

After claim and counter-claim through lower courts, the case arrived at the Supreme Court, where five judges unanimously agreed with his claim.

Some financial pinks have picked up another discrimination complaint against the Chartered Institute of Insurance (CII) that argues a policy that a degree more than 10 years old did not count as points towards chartered status is ageist.

Surely this is not so if the person with the qualification has the opportunity of upgrading a degree before retirement.

The point of the Supreme Court ruling is not that having an old degree or none at all amounts to discrimination when striving for a higher professional status – what the court said was that not letting Mr Homer attain a higher pay grade was discriminatory because he could take no action to remedy the situation, so the glass ceiling on his career was something he could do nothing to change based purely on his age.

The CII rule is in line with that of many other venerable institutions, including the Institute of Financial Planning and the ifs School of Finance.

The CII and Equality and Human Rights Commission decline to comment on individual cases.

Rather than shout discrimination, perhaps the more reasonable solution is to keep qualifications up-to-date with cpd and refresher courses rather than relying on past achievements.