A long-serving Perth and Kinross Council employee who thought he was “winding down” to retirement was shocked when his contract was terminated.
An employment tribunal in Dundee has upheld the unfair dismissal claim of John Robertson, 62, of Sutherland Crescent, Abernethy, and ordered the council to pay him £22,465.
Tribunal judge Ian McFatridge said the council had wrongly decided they had an arrangement with the lighting technician that he should retire on May 1 2013.
Mr Robertson thought his position was only to be reviewed on that date, and there was evidence to support his belief.
The tribunal heard that in February 2012 Mr Robertson, who had around 35 years service, inquired about the flexible retirement scheme to wind down towards retirement.
The council by then operated street lighting in partnership with Dundee City Council and Tayside Contracts and his manager was in Dundee.
He was allowed to cut back to two days a week and Perth and Kinross Council’s policy was that the agreement should last for 12 months and then be reviewed each year.
The council had a flexible retirement application form containing a box asking the employee to stipulate their proposed flexible retirement end date, which must be within three years of the start date.
Mr Robertson said he did not receive or complete any application form with this information.
Lindsay McGregor, Mr Robertson’s manager in Dundee, emailed Scott Denyer, senior engineer in Perth, saying he was happy to support the application for flexible retirement.
Then Audrey Clark, Perth council personnel officer, put together a report for the chief executive which involved “altering the report which had been sent to her by Mr Denyer in draft”.
The alteration was the addition of: “John has stated that he will leave the council’s employment on May 1 2013.”
Mr Robertson was not consulted about the addition to the report and he was unaware that it had been made. He agreed to the new arrangement on the understanding that his end date was open to review.
If he had known he would have to leave on May 1 2013 he would not have “touched flexible retirement with a bargepole”.
In 2012/13 Perth and Kinross Council had to find savings and one of these was to end Mr Robertson’s job on May 1 2013.
He was “shocked” to be told this and sued for unfair dismissal.
Mr McFatridge said the reason for the dismissal was Perth and Kinross Council’s “erroneous view that they had entered into an arrangement with the claimant by which he had agreed to retire on May 1 2013”.
He ruled that the dismissal was unfair but a further claim of age discrimination was rejected.