This case looked at the knotty issue of whether a discriminatory
decision based on cost can be justified.
As part of an NHS re-organisation, Mr Woodcock's role as
Chief Executive was made redundant. But he continued to work for
the Trust while other suitable jobs were considered.
Mr Woodcock was 48 at the time. If he were still employed by the
Trust at 50 then he would be entitled to an enhanced early
retirement package which could have cost the NHS an extra
Ł500,000. So the Trust served redundancy notice on Mr
Woodcock which meant that he would be dismissed before reaching 50.
He claimed unfair dismissal and age discrimination.
The employment tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal found for
the Trust. It's the age discrimination point that provides real
interest. The timing of Mr Woodcock's dismissal was potentially
discriminatory but justified, it was held. It was legitimate for
the Trust to have tried to avoid additional costs and, anyway, had
notice not been served when it was then Mr Woodcock would have
received a windfall. The Trust's primary aim was to achieve a
redundancy whilst avoiding unnecessary cost and a windfall benefit,
which meant that its actions were not purely cost-related.
Mr Woodcock appealed but lost at the Court of Appeal. The
dismissal for redundancy was a legitimate aim. While timing a
redundancy purely to save costs cannot by itself be justified
(it's not a legitimate aim), this case was about more than just
cost. The circumstances of the dismissal were genuine.
An important reminder that discrimination based on cost alone
might land employers in hot water. Other legitimate aims need to
play a part.
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In October 2012, the Court of Appeal confirmed that a Service Provision Change ("SPC") TUPE transfer can only occur where the client who receives the service, before and after the change, remains the same (Hunter v McCarrick  EWCA Civ 1399).
Following much debate, on 24 April 2013 the House of Lords finally gave its approval to employee shareholder status which will now take effect from Autumn 2013.
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