The University of Oxford discriminated against professor of physics Paul Ewart on the basis of age, after failing to renew his contract in 2017, according to an Employment Tribunal ruling last November. Ewart re-joined the faculty this fall under the orders of a remedy judgement issued earlier this month.
Ewart, the former head of atomic and laser physics at the university, was awarded almost £30,000 in compensation and re-employed as a senior lecturer. He will also retroactively receive the salary he would have been paid from Oct. 1, 2017 to Sept. 30th, 2020.
“It has never been a matter of money, it’s a matter of allowing people the dignity of continuing employment and providing worthwhile work in their life,” Ewart told a BBC reporter last week.
Ewart, who is now 72, always planned to retire next September, but was forced out by the university before turning 70. As is outlined in the court decision, he will still retire in 2021 as planned but will work in the full capacity of his position until then.
While the ruling dictates that Ewart was the victim of age discrimination, it does not require the university to change their controversial Employer Justified Retirement Age (EJRA) policy, which forces all employees at grade 8 or higher to retire before their 69th birthday. The policy, according to the University’s HR website, is meant to “enable inter-generational fairness, improvements in diversity, and succession planning.”
The university has received significant criticism about the policy and its ineffectiveness in promoting the hiring of younger, more diverse faculty members. Although the tribunal did not require the university to change its policy, it did dictate that it had failed to properly justify the forced retirement age.
While Ewart is now re-employed, he plans to continue to pursue legal action in hopes of changing the university’s broader policy.
“It’s important for others that I carry this battle on,” he said, in an interview with the Belfast Telegraph. “I really wasn’t doing it just for me. I’ve got what I wanted but I’m doing it for some of my colleagues who are engaged in very important work and should have the lawful right to keep working until they choose to retire.”
The University did not respond to Cherwell’s request for comment.
Image Credit: D.S. Pugh. Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0.