Oxford

Oxford don forced to quit wins age discrimination claim

Prof Ewart
Image caption Prof Paul Ewart said he was delighted "especially for colleagues about to be made to retire in the middle of important work"

An Oxford professor forced to retire at 69 was unfairly dismissed by the university, an employment tribunal has ruled.

Physicist Paul Ewart was discriminated against on the grounds of age when his contract was not renewed in September 2017, the hearing found.

Current Oxford University policy means staff in senior grades must retire the September before they turn 69.

A spokesperson said it was considering its options, including an appeal.

Prof Ewart, who is originally from Northern Ireland, said he was delighted "especially for colleagues about to be made to retire in the middle of important work".

He told the BBC he hoped he would be re-employed by the university and work with bosses to avoid further age-related disputes.

He said: "It has never been a matter of money, it's a matter of allowing people the dignity of continuing employment and providing worthwhile work in their life."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Senior academics at Oxford must currently retire by the September prior to their 69th birthday

The university introduced the Employer Justified Retirement Age policy (EJRA) in 2011 in a bid to bring younger and more diverse staff into posts. In 2017 it changed the age from 67 to 68.

In its judgement, the tribunal in Reading said the EJRA was highly discriminatory and it was "hard to think of a more severe discriminatory impact".

"There can hardly be a greater discriminatory effect in the employment field than being dismissed simply because you hold a particular protected characteristic," it said.

Prof Ewart gave the tribunal statistical evidence showing the policy could only help create a small number of vacancies.

The tribunal also said the university had failed to justify its policy.

Discriminating against anyone at work because of protected characteristics, such as age, is illegal under the Equality Act 2010.

In May, another Oxford don, Prof John Pitcher, lost a similar claim against the university after he was made to retire at 67.

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