Ann Barnes, described by Blair Gibbs as “Vocal critic of
#PCC reform & respected chair of Kent #police authority,” has been attracting a lot of attention over the past few days.
For one, Times Crime correspondent Sean O’Neill asks “Could this be a credible independent PCC candidate to take on the party hacks?“, and she has attracted a good luck message from former Police Federation national chair Jan Berry, one of the high profile people who did not secure the Conservative nomination in the same county.
Also, she has now resigned as Chair, giving up the last few months of position and allowances, possibly as a way of underlining her time commitment to the campaign, fairness to other candidates, etc.
But one thing in particular that has been attracting positive comments (including some from other Independent candidates) and press attention, is her commitment to create a position in her staff as Youth Commissioner, and to subsidise it, in part, if necessary, from her own salary as PCC.
Now a number of candidates had gone as far as to say they wouldn’t claim the whole salary, but this is the first I am aware of who has said they will commit an amount, albeit unspecified, to a particular role.
There is one problem though. In a response to a question from yours truly, Ms Barnes has committed that the post would “be filled by a young person (under 25)“.
This led me to a further question:-
“How do you propose to comply with the law against age discrimination, if you are going to require the postholder is under 25?”
Now, it was a couple of days ago and I’ve not had a response. Running an election campaign can be all-consuming, so it is quite possible the question has been missed, or the answer is being researched.
I’m not an expert on age discrimination, but what I could find was not promising. You can make age a genuine occupational qualification in a job, but you need a pretty good legally defensible reason, and that reason has to be independent of age if I’m reading it right.
And then a different question occurred to me. If you employ a 24-year old in such a role, what do you do on their following birthday? Is it a case of “Happy Birthday – you’re fired”?
If it is, that would appear to be asking for a tribunal – saying that someone who can do a job one day is disqualified from doing it the next solely because of their age.
If it isn’t, the problem is not avoided, because continuing to employ someone who has turned 25 to do a job where the recruitment was restricted to under-25s actually makes the point that the age restriction was not a genuine occupational qualification, and therefore unlawful.
And does this mean that someone could only be recruited on short-term contracts, or so young, that they didn’t reach 25 while employed?
The tried and tested way round this would be not to make the restriction, but to pay a pittance that only a child would be able-to-afford-to-earn/be-desperate-enough-for-the-CV-points-to-do but then we get into ‘job evaluation’, whether a PCC should really be exploiting people, etc, and that seems not to be a very good approach either.
Now, this is not my specialism so, reader, if it is your’s perhaps you could tell me why my musings are fundamentally wrong-headed and why the law is OK about these things in the comments below?
Or, if I’m on to something, and this turns out to be a plan that is not sufficiently-well thought through, you could get into the far more entertaining business of pointing out similar problematic commitments made by other candidates – because having had a look, I regret to say that I don’t think PCC world is short of such examples.