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School worker wins age discrimination claim after headteacher said ‘we’re not all going to be here forever.’

In the case of Mrs J W v (1) London Borough of Ealing  (2) The Governing Body of Horsenden Primary School a school worker in her 70s has won an age discrimination claim after the headteacher told her ‘we’re not all going to be here forever.’

In the case of Mrs J W v (1) London Borough of Ealing  (2) The Governing Body of Horsenden Primary School a school worker in her 70s has won an age discrimination claim after the headteacher told her ‘we’re not all going to be here forever.’

The comment was made during discussions about Mrs JW’s job at Horsenden Primary School in Greenford, west London, an employment tribunal heard.

The 71-year-old Mrs JW had no intention of leaving her job, but it was found that headteacher Ms EA and other staff at the school expected her to ‘give in and retire.’

After her job was ‘deleted’, Mrs JW was unfairly kept waiting on garden leave for three months waiting for a new role at the school that never materialised.

The tribunal head that ‘Ms EA noted that the Welfare Officer was retiring at Christmas and indicated that she was considering combining [Mrs JW’s] Attendance/Medical Officer role with the Welfare Officer role.’

‘[Mrs JW] initially understood Ms EA to be suggesting that she take on that role on a full-time basis before Ms EA proceeded to indicate that she had in mind that she would relinquish her Attendance/Medical Officer role in order to focus on the Swim School.

‘[Mrs JW] raised various concerns about that idea, including that the Swim School role was, at best, 30 hours a month and that relinquishing her other role would result in a significant drop in her income.

‘She made clear that she was willing to discuss a different contract for the Swim School.

‘During this meeting, Ms EA said to [Mrs JW] ‘we’re not all going to be here forever’.’

Following the meeting, Mrs JW ‘made it clear she had no intention of retiring’ and raised concerns about the proposed merger.

Employment Judge Jessica Smeaton ruled Ms EA’s comment amounted to age discrimination and her sacking was unfair dismissal.

The judge said: ‘We accept that the comment would not have been made to a hypothetical compactor – namely someone carrying out [Mrs JW’s] roles, in the same circumstances, but who was under 50 or approaching retirement age.

‘The comment was clearly a reference to the fact that she had surpassed retirement age and was unlikely (in Ms EA’s view) to work much longer.

‘The comment is inherently ageist.’

‘In all the circumstances, we find that Mrs Ware was unfairly dismissed, both substantively and procedurally.’

Compensation will be decided at a later date.

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