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Reinstated and awarded £30k – Oxford Professor who was ousted

After being forced to leave his position at Oxford University because of his age, a Professor has been reinstated and awarded nearly £30,000 in compensation.

In September 2017 Professor Paul Ewart, then head of the atomic and laser physics department was, at the age of 69, forced to leave his job. This was due to a policy which was designed to bring younger members of staff into positions at the University. The policy was changed in 2017 making retirement age 68 instead of 67.

The Reading employment tribunal ruled that Professor Ewart’s dismissal was not only unlawful, but it was highly discriminatory, as was the university’s Employer Justified retirement Age (EJRA).

The judgement was in contrast with another similar case which involved the retirement age of the university. In the other case involving English Professor John Pitcher, the tribunal ruled that the policy was justified.

Because of the discrepancy Oxford University has lodged an appeal against the ruling for Professor Ewart.

In exceptional cases the EJRA allows academics to work beyond the age of 69. An example of this is when research needs to be finished and a project seen through to its conclusion.

At the hearing Professor Ewart claimed that his research was ‘blossoming’ in his final years working for the university. After his 38 years of employment there, the professor intended to retire in 2021.

Speaking at a remedy hearing Professor Ewart claimed that he had managed to secure funding for a portion of the university’s research before being dismissed.

He planned – should he be reinstated – to spend at least 50% of his time on the project. The remainder of his working hours he planned to spend collaborating and mentoring others.

Oxford University was ordered by employment judge Laurence Anstis to reinstate Professor Ewart in the position of senior researcher. He was to be kept on a contract due to expire on 30th September 2021 so that he could complete his project.

The tribunal ruled that Professor Ewart would be paid the same salary he would receive if he had been employed from 1st October 2017 to 30th September 2021 as any senior researcher on a similar contract would receive.

Before awarding Professor Ewart the ruling, the judge stated that there was no evidence of financial reasons as to why the reinstatement was impracticable. Professor Ewart was also awarded £22,500 for injury to feelings, and £7,110 in interest.

A spokesperson for Oxford University stated that the university had reviewed in detail the tribunal’s decision regarding Professor Ewart and the EJRA policy.

Based on the earlier decision of a separate case where the tribunal had ruled in favour of the university, they did not accept the ruling.

‘The University has decided it does not accept the more recent tribunal’s ruling and will be appealing against it. The EJRA policy remains in place and will continue to be applied as normal.’

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