First Default Retirement Age test launchedby
In what may prove a test case on new laws abolishing the default retirement age, a principal at a Scottish university has started tribunal proceedings after rejecting claims made by his employer that he had retired.
Abertay University reportedly circulated an email to staff in error a couple of weeks ago ahead of an official briefing to announce that Professor Bernard King was retiring as of Friday 1 July.
But King, who was suspended earlier this year after a row over whether to extend his employment contract, said that he had not retired and that his lawyers had described his employer’s actions as “both unfair and unlawful”.
As a result, he has now lodged papers with an employment tribunal. A statement issued on his behalf said that King wanted to “clarify” his position following weekend news reports claiming that he had retired.
It read: “He has indeed received correspondence from the University Court intimating that he is now retired. However, this is not accepted by Professor King. His position is that he has not retired and he remains in dispute with the university over the terms of an extension of contract agreed with the university last year.”
It continued that the principal’s claims of “age discrimination and whistle-blowing in relation to actions taken to address allegations of bullying and intimidation of members of staff remain the subject of employment tribunal proceedings, which will take place later this year”.
King’s lawyers were, however, currently attempting to “engage with the University Court to agree meditation in the hope that the need for further legal proceedings can be avoided”, the statement added.
After news of the Professor’s departure was circulated via email, the University’s acting principal Professor Nicholas Terry wrote to staff saying that, while the contents of the message were “accurate”, it was “regrettable” it had been sent without his knowledge.
A University spokesman told the BBC: “Our position remains that Professor King’s retirement took effect on Friday 1 July and that we will not comment on current unresolved issues relating to his former employment.”
But King was first given notice of his retirement date in early December and the University had been sent further correspondence since that date about “various aspects of his retirement”, he claimed.
“Today’s statement – which we only heard about through the media – is the first intimation we have had that of Professor King’s clarification of his position relative to his retirement. We welcome the commitment made by his lawyers to the desirability of continued negotiation so as to avoid further legal proceedings,” the spokesman added.
The dispute between the University and its principal has proved very contentious, with a number of public figures resigning from the University Court as a result. One, businessman Derek Douglas, has called for an independent inquiry into King’s suspension.
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