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An appeal case has upheld two tribunal decisions which had reached opposite conclusions on the same university retirement policy.

This was two joined appeals where Professors Pitcher (English Literature) and Ewart (Atomic and Laser Physics) had been required to retire at age 67 under the same university retirement policy.

Each case had been heard by a different employment tribunal. Professor Ewart had won his claim for direct age discrimination, but Professor Pitcher had lost his. The tribunals reached different conclusions on whether the university had shown its compulsory retirement age to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

The EAT upheld both employment tribunal decisions. The presentation of the claims and evidence before the two tribunals differed in material respects and neither tribunal had erred in law.

Particular differences in the evidence were that Professor Ewart had done his own statistical analysis indicating the increase in vacancies as a result of the retirement age to be only 2-4%, and had given evidence of why mitigating options such as contributing in an unpaid Emeritus position were not viable alternatives for someone in his position, requiring access to laboratory facilities and a research team to continue experimental research.

The case is Pitcher v University of Oxford, EAT, 2021

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