(E Jolly v Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust)
An 88 year old employee has won her Employment Tribunal claim for age discrimination.
Mrs Jolly worked for Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust (the Trust) from 1991 until 2017 as a medical secretary. In September 2016, when Mrs Jolly was 86 years old, she was informed that the Trust was concerned with how she was performing her role. She was immediately put on “special leave”, escorted off the Trust’s premises and was ultimately dismissed for ‘performance reasons’ leaving her “humiliated” and “ashamed”; so much so that she told her husband that she had chosen to retire.
Mrs Jolly’s claim for age discrimination was upheld. During the course of the Tribunal, not even the Trust’s own witnesses could identify Mrs Jolly’s alleged failures and it came to light that numerous comments had been made by Mrs Jolly’s colleagues about her age, ability to walk the length of the Trust’s building, her heart condition and her ability to work any overtime because of her health.
This is a timely reminder that employers must treat employees as individuals, and not make assumptions about their health or abilities on the basis of social stereotyping. There are substantial risks and consequences for failing to identify, prevent and/or properly resolve workforce issues, including personal suffering of individuals, poor workforce morale, negative press, inefficient use of resources and the potential of uncapped compensation awards in discrimination claims.
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