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What next? Judge rules you can’t call work colleagues a grandparent, even if they are one

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Anne Dopson sued her employer after a colleague wrote a car review where she was described as a “grandmother”. The former sales director – who was 62 at the time – told the employment tribunal the reference had been a “dig at my age” and “raised a laugh in the office”.

The Renault Kadjar review was described as “comfy wheels” for a grandparent.

The article – published in Fleet World – was written by publisher Steve Moody who said the car had been tested by several of the company’s staff.

He wrote: “[It] had three spells as family transport, one as a ride for the bachelor about town and the other as comfy wheels for a grandmother.”

Ms Dopson – who had three grandchildren at the time – resigned from the £50,000-a-year role with Stag Publications in Hertfordshire.

After bringing legal proceedings against the publisher, a judge has ruled the review amounted to “detrimental” and “less favourable” treatment of her as it drew attention to her age.

Ms Dopson raised the grievance procedure in relation to the article, the tribunal heard.

In an email to her boss, she wrote: “I have no problem with being a grandma and… for the last seven years since Tom [her grandson] was born I delight in taking every opportunity to show his pictures to all and sundry, but I don’t agree with what could be perceived as a dig at my age.”

An internal grievance procedure at the company rejected her complaint as did an appeal hearing, The Times reported.

Ms Dopson – who lives in Ireland – went on sick leave and resigned without returning to work.

In his ruling, judge Oliver Hyams criticised Stag Publications for the way it had dealt with her grievance.

However, he dismissed her claims of unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal and age discrimination.

He said the comment was deemed to have been an “isolated” incident that happened outside the time limit for complaints.

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Back in May, it was revealed the number of complaints to employment tribunals jumped by 74 percent in the past year.

Experts predicted they will rocket even further when the Covid furlough scheme ends in September.

Although overall cases at employment tribunals went down from 183,207 in 2019 to 180,430 in 2020, age discrimination had the biggest year-on-year increase.

Unemployment among over-50s reached 426,000 in the final three months of 2020 – up 48 percent from the year before – including 284,685 redundancies.

Rest Less, the digital community for the over-50s, predicted complaints will soar.

Founder Stuart Lewis said: “Workers in their 50s and 60s had a challenging time. Unemployment soared and redundancies hit an all-time high. We fear a new wave of job losses on the horizon.”

Mr Lewis added: “We know the pandemic has exacerbated age discrimination in both the workplace and the recruitment process.

“We also know that once made redundant, older workers are more likely to drift into long-term unemployment.

“Combined with the need for many to keep working until 66 to access the state pension, it is leading to an increase in employment tribunal cases – and it’s likely to get worse.

“Age discrimination is unfair, unacceptable and has long-term damaging consequences. It needs to stop.”

From July, employers will pay 10 percent of furloughed staff’s wages.

In its final two months, August and September, that rises to 20 percent.

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