Oxford physicist who was forced to retire reinstated by tribunal

University is also told to pay Paul Ewart almost £30,000 in compensation 

October 16, 2020
Oxford
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A physicist who won an employment tribunal against the University of Oxford over its compulsory retirement policy has had his job reinstated and been awarded almost £30,000 in compensation.

Paul Ewart, a former head of atomic and laser physics at Oxford, brought legal action over the institution’s Employment-Justified Retirement Age policy, which currently requires academics to retire at 68 unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Oxford has said the policy exists to improve diversity and career progression for younger academics, but an employment tribunal judge presiding over Professor Ewart’s case found last year that forcing academics to retire was not a “proportionate” method for achieving EJRA’s stated aims.

The university is still in the midst of appealing the decision but last month a remedy hearing ordered that Professor Ewart be reinstated to the position of senior researcher until September next year.

It also said that Oxford should pay the “salary he would have received had he been employed from 1 October 2017 until 30 September 2020 as a senior researcher on a 0.8 FTE contract”.

In addition, the university was ordered to pay £22,500 “by way of compensation for injury to feelings, together with an additional £7,110.00 interest on such payment”.

Professor Ewart, who worked at Oxford for 38 years until September 2017, was in 2014 granted an extra two years to work until he was 69 and presumed that he would be given a second extension until 2020 to allow him to complete several research projects.

But, despite the support of his then head of department and other scientists, he was told in February 2017 that his application for a three-year extension to work part-time had been rejected.

The ruling in his favour came just a few months after a Shakespearean scholar at Oxford, John Pitcher, lost his claim for age discrimination and unfair dismissal over the EJRA rule.

An Oxford spokesman confirmed that its position remained unchanged despite the remedy decision in Professor Ewart’s case and that it was appealing the original judgment.

“The university has reviewed in detail the 2019 employment tribunal decision regarding Professor Paul Ewart and Oxford’s EJRA policy. This decision followed an earlier employment tribunal, on a separate case but of equal legal weighting, which ruled in favour of the Oxford EJRA,” he said.

“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.”

simon.baker@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (1)

new
For more than just ‘unfinished business’, it is easy and perhaps understandable the emotional attachments that several years of happy engagement in one’s career and location may engender. one would hope such attachment has little to do with financial unpreparedness or hubris or fear to go out into the world. That it has everything to do with the umbilical union that evolves over the years of dedicated engagement between the motivated ‘labourer’ and labor. Yet the curtain must have to come down at some point .... some set point ... unarbitrary and with enough notice so everybody concerned parts amicably and new entrants walk in just as amicably. It will be odd for a lady to have to complain at nine months that she did not have enough notice for her baby’s arrival. Or that she wants a deferment of labor! Basil jide fadipe.

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