South Tyneside housing firm cleared of age discrimination

South Shields Town Hall
South Shields Town Hall

South Tyneside Homes have been cleared of subjecting two veteran employees to age discrimination when selecting them for redundancy amid swingeing budget cuts.

Building surveyor, Keith Dixon, 63, and asset management officer, Tom Johnson, had both worked for South Tyneside Council for over 30 years.

The men had stayed on with South Tyneside Homes after the council set up the company to manage and maintain its housing stock.

In 2015 a £65 million “decent homes” project to refurbish council homes was drawing to a close and redundancies were in the offing.

The two men were among those who lost their jobs and they complained to an Employment Tribunal that they were victims of age discrimination.

Mr Dixon told the tribunal that, after 37 years service, he had left the office “without a handshake, a thank you or good luck in the future.”

He claimed the redundancy process was “mechanistic and impersonal” and that “everyone was expected to look after himself”.

However, Employment Judge Tudor Garnon said the company had treated all those threatened with redundancy in exactly the same way.

Of 26 people made redundant, 20 were aged under 60, and one woman over that age had been kept on.

There was no evidence of a pattern which undermined the company’s insistence that the outcome had nothing to do with age, said the judge.

The men’s lawyers argued that younger employees were more familiar with modern recruitment techniques and how to “beef up” their CVs.

The company, they claimed, may have been keeping on younger staff “as a better investment for the future”.

But Judge Garnon ruled that the process followed by South Tyneside Homes was a fair one.

Candidates for remaining posts were entitled to do all they could to stay in their jobs or be redeployed.

The judge added: “It is within the band of reasonableness to expect every employee to look after himself.

“If that means keeping one’s job at the expense of someone else losing theirs, so be it.”

He concluded: “South Tyneside Homes did carry out a fair procedure.”