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£40,000 payout for Dunnes woman 'too old' for work

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 22/10/2015

Gloria Dunbar worked as a security manager in Dunnes Stores
Gloria Dunbar worked as a security manager in Dunnes Stores

A woman who was forced to retire from her supermarket job at the age of 63 against her wishes has received a £40,000 payout.

Gloria Dunbar worked as a security manager for Dunnes Stores for nine years. Last year her contract was terminated and she was forced to quit her job. She left work for the last time on her 63rd birthday.

Ms Dunbar, who is from north Belfast, took a case supported by the Equality Commission, alleging that she was discriminated against on the grounds of her age.

Dunnes Stores, in settling the case for £40,000, did not accept that it acted in breach of equality legislation. It reaffirmed its commitment to the principles of equality.

Ms Dunbar had 23 years' experience working in security roles in various stores.

At the time her employment was terminated she was 63 and working in Dunnes' Annadale Embankment store in south Belfast.

When she passed 60 she had been placed on a series of fixed-term, renewable contracts until 2014, when her contract was terminated.

Ms Dunbar believes the decision was taken because of her age.

"I felt very hurt and let down by the decision to terminate my contract in 2014, even though I had always indicated my wish to stay in work until 2016 when I would be 65," she said.

"I was always a loyal and hard-working member of staff, yet for the three years before I was dismissed I was placed on fixed-term yearly contracts, unlike the other security managers in the company and the other managers in the store where I worked.

"They were all younger than me and I believe that the reason I was placed on a fixed-term contract and then dismissed was because of my age."

Since 2011 there has been no automatic right for an employer to fix a retirement point based on age.

The law states that if an employer wishes to have an age-based retirement policy, it must be justified.

Evelyn Collins, the chief executive of the Equality Commission, said the case highlighted important issues.

"This case raised issues regarding the treatment of older workers as they approach or pass what was regarded as retirement age," she said.

"Staff who are able and willing to work beyond previously accepted retirement ages must have their wishes fairly considered and, when decisions are being made regarding their contracts, performance standards, and continued employment, they are entitled to the same consideration as workers of other ages.

"Everyone has the right to fair treatment in the job market and in the workplace on the basis of individual merits, experience and potential."

In settling the case, Dunnes Stores (Bangor) Ltd agreed to liaise with the Equality Commission in developing its policies, practices, training and procedures on equality of opportunity and age discrimination.

Dunnes Stores did not respond to requests for comment.

The company has 152 stores throughout Ireland, the UK and Spain, employing almost 15,000 people. Twenty of its stores are based in Northern Ireland.

Its founder, Ben Dunne, was born in Rostrevor, Co Down.

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