​Is being overqualified a form of age discrimination?

​Is being overqualified a form of age discrimination?

The recent Employment Tribunal decision of Jones v Care UK Clinical Services Ltd, ruled that if a candidate is not given a job because he/she is deemed "overqualified" this is not direct age discrimination.

The case itself focused around a 51 year old candidate who had high-level qualifications and extensive experience in the marketing sector. He had applied for a job as a marketing assistance at Care UK Clinical Services Ltd.

The claimant had high level qualifications and a wealth of experience in the marketing sector. Subsequently he was not offered the job as he was deemed "overqualified". The successful candidate was aged 29 and fulfilled the requirements for qualifications and experience and scored marginally higher than Mr Jones on the company's scoring records.

The company were concerned with Mr Jones' skills in relation to engagement with stakeholders as this was beyond what was needed for the job role and that Mr Jones' expectations of his development in this job could not realistically be fulfilled. It was these concerns that the company submitted they relied upon when making the decision not to hire Mr Jones.

The Employment Tribunal held that he had not been discriminated against because he was not offered the job. In their ruling the Employment Tribunal stated it was "plausible that the employer would be concerned that the claimant's previous senior roles, high level qualifications and extensive experience might unbalance the marketing team and undermine other team members, all of whose qualifications and experience were of a much lesser order". The Employment Tribunal found there was no evidence to suggest that Mr Jones had been treated less favourably because of his age.

The Employment Tribunal did accept that Mr Jones had been rejected for the job role for being overqualified but ruled that his age played no part in the decision. This means that the Employment Tribunal could not find a causal link between the decision not to hire the Claimant for being overqualified and the alleged age discrimination. The decision of the Employer was that the Claimant's qualifications and experience made him too experienced to be fulfilled in the job role, which in itself is not exclusively linked to age.

In light of this case, when hiring new staff it is really important to be as transparent as possible on what they will be assessed on and also giving detailed feedback as to why they have not been successful. The important distinction that the Employment Tribunal have made in this case is that being overqualified is not a factor purely exclusive to a person's age.

If you are concerned you are being discriminated against by your employer or are a business concerned about potential claims against you, we can help! Contact us on 01603 693500, email us using 'Make an enquiry' form, or during offices hours use the 'live chat' facility. Appointments available at our Norwich, North Walsham, Brooke and Sheringham offices.

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