Issue 729/November 2020
Your weekly bulletin of wit and wonder
DO YOU WISH IT COULD BE CHRISTMAS EVERY DAY IN NOVEMBER?
Are you a KCACer or a CPNer?
RAGE, RAGE AGAINST THE DYING OF YOUR RIGHTS
A professor successfully rails against retiring.
THE INTERGALACTIC POST
Is this monolith of metal a sign..?
A BIT CRIMBLY AROUND THE EDGES
A new chasm has split the UK asunder, just when you thought we couldn’t be any more divided.
Where do you stand? Which tribe will you align yourself with? The KEEP CHRISTMAS AT CHRISTMAS (KCAC) party or the CHRISTMAS, PLEASE, NOOOOOOW (CPN) party?
I know of people who put their tree up in the first week of November. Just couldn’t wait.
Because if you’ve got to stay at home and stare at the four walls, why not drape them in tinsel and twinkling LEDs? Why not put that inflatable Santa out front now? Why not climb onto your roof and start hammering your 45,000 lights into place, singing Silent Night and weeping festive tears of joy onto your Rudolph jumper with the light up nose?
I’m naming this phenomenon as Crimbliness.
There’s a wave of Crimbliness sweeping the nation.
The definition is thus:
Crimbliness (n): A strong urge to be comforted by the presence of Christmas decorations, smells and tunes at any time of year. Crimbly (adj): to feel a sense of Crimbliness. Eg: ‘Oooh, I’ve come over all Crimbly, Sheila. Get those cheese footballs out!’
I’ve heard KCACkers moaning about festive fatigue and how the real Christmas tree will be dead and shedding in its pot long before the 25th and how some of them may turn violent when they reach Mariah Carey saturation point.
But I have to confess I’m more in the CPN camp. I ADORE Christmas! Andy Williams is blasting out on my playlist as I write this. I love the twinkly light show en route to the takeaway. My Rudolf planter is already out by the front door. Coldplay’s Christmas Lights track is on repeat in my head 24/7. YEEEEESSSSS! Bring it on!
I am CRIMBLY AND PROUD!
Are you? Feel free to judge me over on our Facebook page...
NEVER TOO OLD
And speaking of going off too early brings me to the case of Professor Paul Ewart v The Chancellor, Master and Scholars of the University of Oxford .
Professor Paul Ewart was an associate professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Oxford. The university has an Employer Justified Retirement Age (EJRA) policy which imposes a mandatory retirement age of 67. Employees wishing to continue working beyond this age would need to successfully apply for an extension. Extensions were usually only granted if certain criteria were met, such as requiring more time to complete a research project.
Professor Ewart was scheduled to retire on 30 September 2015. He successfully applied for an extension of two years, bringing his new retirement date to 30 September 2017. In September 2016, he applied for a second extension, claiming that unforeseen circumstances had prevented his research projects from being completed within the original extension. He proposed to continue working on a part-time, three year contract. This second application was rejected by the university and Professor Ewart’s employment terminated on 30 September 2017. He then filed an Employment Tribunal (ET) claim alleging age-based discrimination and unfair dismissal.
It was accepted by the university that its EJRA policy amounted to direct age-based discrimination. However, Professor Ewart’s claim for age-based discrimination would fail if the university could show that the policy was a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.” In the cases of age-based discrimination, a legitimate aim is an aim which has a “public interest nature”.
Oxford University presented five aims of its EJRA policy. The ET accepted the following four of them as being legitimate:
- “safeguarding the standards of the university,”
- “promoting intergenerational fairness,”
- “equality and diversity,” and
- “facilitating succession planning.”
The university argued that the EJRA policy contributed to these aims by creating more vacancies which could then be filled with younger, more diverse staff.
The ET accepted that in principle the policy could contribute to the legitimate aims, but said that proportionality depended on “the extent to which the measure contributes towards meeting those legitimate aims.”
The policy was “highly discriminatory” and had a “severe impact” on the affected employees, which was not mitigated by the opportunity to apply for an extension. In order for the EJRA policy to be justified, the university would need to demonstrate that it was highly effective at creating vacancies which could then be filled by younger, more diverse, employees. It is here that the university failed. It presented no real evidence to the ET that the policy significantly increased vacancies. The only evidence of the policy’s effect on vacancies was presented by Professor Ewart, which showed only a 2-4% increase in vacancies, a figure the ET described as “trivial.” This trivial increase in vacancies was not enough to outweigh the highly discriminatory nature of the policy; consequently, the ET found Professor Ewart had been subject to direct age-based discrimination.
The ET ordered Professor Ewart be reinstated from 1 October until 30 September 2021. It also awarded Professor Ewart £22,500 as compensation for injury to feelings and an additional £7,110 as interest.
It should be noted that this case contradicts a case from May 2019, Pitcher v University of Oxford in which a professor was forced to retire from Oxford under the same EJRA policy, and the ET held the policy to be justified. Both Pitcher and this case are first instance decisions and so neither are binding on future ET cases. The university has indicated it will appeal Professor Ewart’s case to the EAT which, if heard, may provide further clarity.
This case highlights some of the challenges employers may face when imposing a mandatory retirement age. Employers wishing to introduce such a policy will need to show that the policy pursues a legitimate aim and is proportionate. As this case shows, proportionality can be a high bar to clear. Employers should be able to present evidence that their policy is effective at achieving the legitimate aim. The harsher the effects of the policy, the stronger that evidence should be.
Events Season 2020
PANDESPECTIVE OF THE WEEK
The world may be in crisis but it’s OK. The aliens are coming to sort us out. At least that’s what some are concluding from the discovery of a shiny metal monolith standing amid the red rocks of Utah.
Pictured on the BBC website this week, it has the look of the monoliths planted on Earth in the cult classic sci-fi flick 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Spotted by a helicopter crew monitoring local sheep, the 12ft shiny metal post has caused bafflement and a stern warning from the authorities about modern artists (or aliens) erecting unapproved installations in remote Utah locations.
But what could it BE? Although our alien overlords dropping in to mop up Covid-19 might be timely, my money’s on a subliminal marketing exercise for the next Apple device.
You mark my words; the Apple Monolith will be launched in January, to a stage backdrop of dusty red rock and the 2001 soundtrack.
What would you like that monolith to be? Do tell us over on our Facebook page...