Age discrimination nurse warns employers against picking on elderly

Let this be a warning to bosses! NHS nurse, 88, who became the oldest person in the UK to win an age discrimination case warns employers against picking on elderly workers

  • Eileen Jolly, 88, was sacked as a secretary by Royal Berkshire NHS Trust in 2017 
  • She was blamed for a mix-up with a waiting list for non-urgent breast treatments
  • Mrs Jolly, of Reading, won her age discrimination case against the trust last year
  • She can now expect a substantial windfall after her employment tribunal victory

The grandmother, who has a heart condition, arthritis and walks with a stick, took the Royal Berkshire trust to an employment tribunal, claiming unfair dismissal on the grounds of age and disability

The oldest person in Britain to win an age discrimination case has warned employers against picking on elderly workers.

Eileen Jolly, 88, was sacked as a secretary by an NHS trust in 2017, but won her landmark case last November.

Speaking exclusively to The Mail on Sunday, she said: ‘I feel people ought to be allowed to carry on working if they want to and can still do what is required.’

She can now expect a substantial windfall after her victory against Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, but her plans for the compensation money go no further than having her driveway redone – though she may celebrate with the odd margarita.

Having worked for the NHS since 1991, Mrs Jolly was dismissed from her position at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading in January 2017 after colleagues were said to have told bosses they were concerned about her ‘frailty’ and age.

Mrs Jolly, who lives in Reading, was blamed for a mix-up involving a waiting list for non-urgent breast treatments. 

She was frog-marched through an open-plan office by a manager in front of colleagues, carrying only her coffee cup and a couple of books.


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She said: ‘Nothing like this had ever happened in all my years of work. The way they treated me made me doubt myself for the first time in my life.

‘I wasn’t doing well, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t stop thinking about it all.’

Mrs Jolly’s GP told her she was mentally as sharp as ever but prescribed anti-depressants to help her deal with the trauma.

Mrs Jolly, who lives in Reading, was blamed for a mix-up involving a waiting list for non-urgent breast treatments. She was frog-marched through an open-plan office by a manager in front of colleagues, carrying only her coffee cup and a couple of books

She told no one she had been sacked – not even her two daughters and husband Bob – instead saying that she had retired.

She said: ‘I didn’t want to burden them all with my problems.’ 

She had wanted to continue up to the age of 90 in the £22,000-a-year job.

The grandmother, who has a heart condition, arthritis and walks with a stick, took the Royal Berkshire trust to an employment tribunal, claiming unfair dismissal on the grounds of age and disability.

The surgeon she worked for, Brendan Smith, defended her, saying she was ‘reliable’ and ‘meticulous’ and was being used as a ‘scapegoat’ for failings by management. 

Mrs Jolly found the hearing ‘nerve-racking’, adding: ‘I’m so glad my old boss Mr Smith was a witness for me.’

Her husband Bob died two weeks before the hearing.

In October, Mrs Jolly will learn how much compensation she will receive. Experts believe it could be up to £100,000.

‘I need to re-tarmac the driveway, so it’ll be good to have money for that,’ she said. ‘And the occasional margarita.’

Her solicitor, Anna Illingworth, described the hospital’s treatment as ‘appalling and incredibly unpleasant’.

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