In the case of Jones v Care UK Clinical Services Ltd ET/3302973/2015 the Emloyment Tribunal held that an employer had not discriminated against an older, more qualified job applicant by selecting a younger, less qualified candidate for the role.
Mr Jones, who was 51 at the time, applied for the role post of marketing services executive at Care UK Clinical Services Ltd, a business providing health and social car services. The position of marketing services executive would report to the marketing services manager. Mr Jones attended an interview for the role but was rejected for the post after this interview.
After his rejection Mr Jones brought a claim for direct age discrimination in the Employment Tribunal, arguing that he had been rejected from the post he had applied for because of his age; as evidence for this claim he pointed to the fact that the candidate who had been hired for the post of marketing services executive was 29.
Care UK Clinical Services Ltd accepted that Mr Jones met the key criteria set out int eh person specification, as he had at least two years’ experience in a marketing role and held a degree (or similar qualification). However, the business denied discriminating against Mr Jones and argued that his failure to obtain the post was based upon three things:
- The fact that the successful candidate had scored higher in the interview than Mr Jones (a score of 14.5 against a score of 14)
- That Mr Jones had given two responses in the interview that supported its decision not to appoint him: 1) his skills with regards to engagement with stakeholders were beyond what was needed; and 2) Mr Jones’ expectations of the development of his role were not possible due to the constraints of the role
As a result, Care UK Clinical Services decided that Mr Jones was not the best candidate for the role and offered the position to the successful candidate.
The Employment Tribunal held that there had not been direct age discrimination against Mr Jones: it found that no evidence of age bias had been show (particularly given Mr Jones had progressed to the interview stage) and it also found that Care UK Clinical Services had expressed reservations at an early stage about overqualified applicants.
The Tribunal also found that the reason for not appointing Mr Jones to the role were that his “previous senior roles, high-level qualifications and extensive experience might unbalance the marketing team and undermine other team members whose qualifications and experience were of a much lesser order” and, further, that Mr Jones may have become frustrated with the role (due to the limited scope for career progression) and left the business. These reasons were, in the opinion of the Employment Tribunal, plausible and non-discriminatory.
Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “The Tribunal in this matter found that appointing a younger, less qualified candidate to a role was not age discrimination, as the employer had plausible and real concerns that the marketing team may become unbalanced if the wrong candidate was chosen for the role. However, employers should be careful not to choose one candidate over another simply because another is ‘overqualified’, and should make proportionate and nuanced decisions when deciding which applicant to hire.”