Those who do hard physical jobs may find things more challenging as they get older but that is no excuse for employers to put pressure on them to retire. An employer who did just that had findings of unfair dismissal and age discrimination made against it and was ordered to pay the affected worker substantial compensation (Bartell v Rend-Tech North East Ltd).

The man worked as a highly skilled renderer, a job which was physically challenging. He had recently passed his 65th birthday when he said that he was summoned to a meeting with his boss without prior notice. He claimed that he had no intention of retiring but was put under pressure to do so. He later received a letter in which his employer purported to accept his decision to retire. A note in which he asked for his job back went unanswered and his employment was terminated.

The employer was adamant that it had not dismissed him and that his retirement was genuine. He was said to have told his manager several times that he was finding his job too hard on his body and that he would be looking to retire when he was 65. The employer denied that it had initiated discussion of his retirement or pushed him to leave. It argued that trained renderers are a scarce resource and, but for his voluntary retirement, it would have kept him on indefinitely.

After the man launched proceedings, an Employment Tribunal (ET) preferred his version of events. Although he had been thinking about gradually winding down, he had formed no crystallised plan to retire. He had been put under pressure to do so and was dismissed during a telephone conversation by the employer's managing director, who told him that he was finished. A younger renderer would have been retained and he had been treated less favourably because of his age.

The ET noted that, when giving evidence, the man was visibly upset by the memory of what had happened to him. His claims of unfair dismissal and direct age discrimination were upheld and he was awarded a total of £17,462 in compensation. That included £8,400 for injury to his feelings.

For advice on any employment law matter, please contact Emma-Louise Hewitt e.hewitt@sydneymitchell.co.uk

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