NHS trust HR director defends ‘ageist’ hiring policy

The Leeds NHS trust HR director has defended the organisation’s hiring policy, despite a 56-year-old worker being told she was too old to apply for a new job at the trust.

NHS worker Linda Sturdy, now 58, was awared £39,000 in damages last week after the court ruled she suffered age discrimination when she was told not to apply for a job running breast screening services because she was too old. As part of the compensation, the judge awarded £33,500 for injury to feelings -the highest ever awarded -and described the case as “as serious as it gets”.

But Jackie Green, HR director at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, insisted the organisation does not operate an ageist recruitment policy.

She said: “Whilewe are aware of and fully recognise the ruling of the tribunal in the Linda Sturdy case, the trust totally rejects any suggestion that as an organisation our policies or procedures discriminate against older employees,” she said. Leeds Teaching Hospitals is fully committed to promote equality and avoid discrimination.”

Green, who was not employed by the Trust at the time Sturdy suffered age discrimination, added that one in five staff at the trust were over the age of 50. The recent NHS staff survey found the over-50 age group was among the highest categories reporting satisfaction with their job, she said.

Legal experts had warned the damages awarded to Sturdy could be as high as £500,000.

Jog Hundle, partner at Mills & Reeve law firm, said this case would serve as a warning bell for HR to make sure their recruitment policies did not discriminate against older workers.

He told Personnel Today: “As more of these cases hit the headlines, more employers will realise the need for training to make managers aware of risk, because if they don’t change their views, we will see many more of these cases.”

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