Tribunal awards £17,000 to an employee called ‘old woman’

Mrs Witt (W) worked as a shop manager at New Quay Honey Farm Ltd (N) from 2002.

On Friday 16th August 2019, Mr Cooper, the owners’ son, became angry when W attempted to discuss her pay with him. She said she was leaving and walked out. C followed her and flicked a ‘V sign’ in her direction.

When W returned on Tuesday 20th August 2019, her next working day, C told her she had resigned, and he had replaced her. He refused to let her work and called her an ‘old woman’.

The tribunal decided that the ‘old woman’ comment constituted age discrimination and awarded £6,000 for injury to her feelings. It awarded another £11,000 for unfair dismissal. How can you avoid this expensive mistake?

Don’t assume someone has resigned if they walk out. Contact them as soon as possible to discuss the situation.

Trying to reconcile matters will demonstrate your reasonableness. If the employee says they are leaving, write to them to confirm your discussion and ask them to confirm their resignation in writing. Even if they fail to confirm their resignation in writing, your letter will act as a contemporaneous record of your discussion and your version of events.

Don’t replace an employee whose continued employment is uncertain.