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Discrimination - one off or continuing act?

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Issue

The time limit for a claim in respect of discrimination is generally three months from the date of the act of discrimination. In some cases the act will extend over a period of time and the claim will have to be presented within three months from the end of the period. In the case of Parr v MSR Partners LLP (formerly Moore Stephens LLP) and others the issue was whether the discrimination was a one-off act or whether it did extend over a period of time.

Facts

Mr Parr was an equity partner in an accountancy firm. The partnership agreement provided for a normal retirement age of 60, but there was discretion to extend on terms to be determined by the managing partner. Mr Parr’s request to stay on after his normal retirement date of 30 April 2018 was accepted on the basis he could continue for two years but only as an ordinary non-equity partner. In September 2018 he discovered there was to be a sale and claimed his de-equitisation had been discriminatory.

Decision

It was held that the firm’s decision to change Mr Parr’s status on 30 April 2018 was a one-off act in that it had exercised its discretion under the agreement in what may be alleged was a discriminatory manner. Mr Parr’s argument that there was a continuing application of a discriminatory policy which meant his claim to the Employment Tribunal in September was still in time was rejected. His claim would only be allowed to proceed if it was held that just and equitable to extend time for presentation of his claim.

Key points

It can be difficult to distinguish in practice between a rule or policy which inevitably would lead to the discriminatory outcome and a rule or policy which involved the exercise of discretion. Here it was taken into account that demotion was like a dismissal which was a one-off act with continuing consequences rather than conduct extending over a period, even though the dismissed employee could suffer loss of pay and pension for the rest of their life. 

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