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Why Did John McCririck Lose His Age Discrimination Case?

Monday, 13 January 2014

In October 2012 the bombastic horse racing pundit John McCririck was unceremoniously dumped as a presenter by Channel 4 and production company IMG Media Limited.

Later, in 2013 the 73 year old declared that he would bring proceedings against both parties for age discrimination in a claim for £3 million in damages for stress and anguish and against a loss of future earnings.

However, the Central London Employment Tribunal ruled unanimously against McCririck’s claim leaving the former pundit suggesting that it was a “historic setback for all employees in their 30s to their 70s”.

It is notable that although the significantly younger Claire Balding took over the presenting of Channel 4’s racing programmes, that in itself did not mean McCririck had suffered discrimination.

The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 protects individuals from a number of specified forms of discrimination including: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

The Act protects against both direct and indirect discrimination meaning that employers cannot treat someone less favourably than they would treat another person because of their age.

The Act does provide some flexibility though; when considering the protected characteristic of age, an employer is not deemed to discriminate against a person because of their age if its treatment of an individual can be shown to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

The Circumstances of John McCririck’s Sacking

Prior the tribunal hearing McCririck told BBC: "The Equality Act in 2010 said you cannot sack somebody because of their age, and there are hundreds of thousands of people in this country, in their 30s to their 70s, who dread, who fear the threat of the sack just because someone younger is chosen by one of the suits and skirts."

However, the tribunal took a rather different view of the circumstances which led to McCririck’s sacking. In particular it referred to the negative effect of his increased celebrity upon his standing in the mind of television viewers commenting that his, “self-described bigoted and male chauvinist views were clearly unpalatable to a wider audience”.

The tribunal noted that Channel 4 had secured the rights to Royal Ascot and the Grand National in 2012 and had brought in a new presenting team to attract a younger and broader audience.

Comment

Although the sacking of John McCririck may have superficially appeared to be motivated by the freshening up of Channel 4’s Racing team with a younger presenter, the tribunal came to a unanimous decision that age discrimination played no part in the decision.

The decision of the tribunal was clearly based on the extraneous circumstances and the employers were able to prove this beyond doubt. If a decision risks any form of discrimination employers and employees should seek professional advice.

Please contact Aneil Balgobin via e-mail ABalgobin@rollingsons.co.uk or by telephone on 0207 611 4848.

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