Tower Hamlets age discrimination blunder could cost £1m

Tower Hamlets’ HR chief has denied age discrimination against a former employee despite a tribunal decision that could leave the council facing a £1m compensation payout.

Deb Clarke, Tower Hamlets’ joint director of HR, said the council did not accept the tribunal’s ruling that John Wooster’s dismissal was age-related, and would be filing an appeal.

Wooster had worked for the council for 33 years when he was made redundant shortly before his 50th birthday. He would have qualified for a pension lump sum among other benefits if made redundant aged 50 or older.

The tribunal said there was “no doubt” that it was Wooster’s age that caused his dismissal.

Wooster had been seconded to work as a senior consultation officer at social housing provider EastendHomes. The firm offered to pay his salary until he reached 50, but Tower Hamlets refused, and Wooster was dismissed in December 2006.

Clarke told Personnel Today: “Following a staff restructure, Wooster was allowed to benefit from a secondment to another organisation rather than being made redundant.

“This was exceptional and caused managers to fail to correctly follow procedures that must be followed in law when that secondment ended.”

The council admitted automatic unfair dismissal for not following the procedures.

But Clarke added: “Refusal to extend the notice period to allow an employee to benefit from enhanced pension was right and proper. The council must act with prudence to protect public money – this does not amount to age discrimination.”

Wooster is claiming compensation for loss of earnings until his retirement age of 65, loss of pension, and injury to feelings. The sum he will be awarded will be decided at a later hearing.

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