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‘Lessons Must Be Learnt’ From Countryfile Tribunal

Former BBC Presenter Successful In Case


An employment expert at Irwin Mitchell has called on all businesses to reduce their chances of facing tribunals by closely examining the case of former Countryfile presenter Miriam O’Reilly.

The 53-year-old presenter has received an apology from the BBC after a Tribunal ruled in her favour over a claim that she was sacked from the show on the grounds of ageism as it moved towards taking up a primetime slot.

During the case, she argued that no decision was given as to why she was being removed from the show, while it was suggested that people working on the series had claimed she may need to consider Botox.

Commenting on the tribunal, Glenn Hayes, an Employment Partner at Irwin Mitchell’s Leeds office, said the outcome should encourage many other firms to carefully consider their actions.

He explained: “If an employee has been able to show that there is on the face of it, facts that may amount to discrimination, it is for the employer to show that its actions were not because of age or that the treatment was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

“This case also shows that employers need to be extremely careful in how they treat people following an allegation of discrimination, to avoid potential further damages for victimisation if it can be shown that they have subjected the employee to a detriment as a result of having raised such a complaint.

“With Ms O’Reilly expected to receive around £100,000 in damages, the costs of getting it wrong can be extremely significant.”

The expert added that a particularly important conclusion from the case should be that firms take care while documenting records.

He said: “Such information would assist in supporting its arguments as to why it took the action it did at that time, together with evidence to persuade a Tribunal that any such action was not because of age or motivated by it.

“This is particularly the case when the latest statistics show that there were over 75,000 discrimination claims accepted by Employment Tribunals in the last financial year with unlimited compensation potentially available.”