Council must reinstate lorry driver forced to retire at 66

Labour Court finds Longford County Council unfairly dismissed Michael Neilon

In her ruling, Labour Court deputy chairwoman Caroline Jenkinson said the council had not been able to establish that a normal retirement age existed which Michael  Neilon was aware of or ought to have been aware of.

In her ruling, Labour Court deputy chairwoman Caroline Jenkinson said the council had not been able to establish that a normal retirement age existed which Michael Neilon was aware of or ought to have been aware of.

 

The Labour Court has ordered Longford County Council to reinstate a 68-year-old lorry driver and allow him work for the council until he turns 70.

It found the local authority unfairly dismissed Michael Neilon when it retired the long-serving employee on his reaching his 66th birthday in May 2017.

In her ruling Labour Court deputy chairwoman Caroline Jenkinson said the council had not been able to establish that a normal retirement age existed within the local authority which Mr Neilon was aware of or ought to have been aware of.

Work until 72

William Martin-Smith, his legal representative, told the court the custom and practice for outdoor road workers was to retire at age 72 years and provided details of named colleagues as examples. He said his client had a legitimate expectation that he too would be entitled to work until 72 years of age.

Furthermore he said Mr Neilon, who had worked for the council for more than 39 years, was given a verbal assurance from a senior council official in 2006 at a group meeting that he and all colleagues present, could remain in employment up to age 70.

The council told the hearing Mr Neilon retired in accordance with the normal and agreed retirement age for employees of the local authority which was age 66 and the dismissal by way of retirement was not unfair.

Retirement age

It acknowledged that during the period from 1998 to 2006, a small number of employees – nine – remained in employment after the accepted and recognised retirement age for outdoor employees. But it said that from 2009 to 2018 a total of 85 employees had retired from the council. Of these, only one was permitted to remain on past 66 years of age.

However Ms Jenkinson found that in the absence of a clear retirement policy applicable to Mr Neilon, it was not unreasonable for him to have an expectation that he would continue in employment beyond his 66th birthday. She noted the Labour court was not furnished with a contract of employment specifying Mr Neilon’s mandatory retirement age by the council nor was it supplied with a collective agreement to substantiate the council’s position that 66 was the normal retirement age for staff in Mr Neilon’s work category.