Well-known NI bakery settles age discrimination case for £75,000.
A bakery in Northern Ireland, which has been in business since 1912, has settled an age discrimination case with a sales manager for £75,000.
Portadown based WD Irwin and Sons, which is behind some of the biggest bakery brands, in Northern Ireland settled the case brought by Seamus Gillespie without “admission of liability”.
Gillespie, a 60-year-old sales manager, from Co. Fermanagh had worked for Irwin’s Bakery for more than 30 years.
He had alleged that he was told in early 2021 that the company was looking for “younger professional people from a blue-chip background” when it came to recruiting for new staff.
He believed this was because the company thought the age profile of staff within the business was a problem.
Gillespie, whose case against his former employer was supported by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, also alleged that he was informed that he would lose some accounts when a vacant post of business unit controller was to be filled.
He believed that this resulted in him losing a significant proportion of his work. He also felt his role was diminished and that he was left in a vulnerable position for possible future redundancy.
Gillespie said: “I worked for Irwins for over 30 years. I enjoyed my job, I was a dedicated, hardworking and loyal employee, with lots of experience.
“But it was very clear to me, following discussions with management, that my career with the company was over.
“I firmly believed the decision to make me redundant was based solely on my age. I had no choice but to challenge how I was treated. I’m glad my case is now settled, although I would rather that none of this had happened in the first place.”
According to Gillespie in September 2022 he was advised that his post with Irwin’s Bakery “was at risk of redundancy” and he was “placed in a redundancy pool of one”.
The sales manager recounted that in follow up redundancy meetings, he claims that comments were made regarding the need to get some new blood and of the age profile of the senior management team “being all of one ilk and age”.
He was made redundant, and his appeal was not upheld.
In setting the case, WD Irwin and Sons denied any liability and reaffirmed its “strong commitment to the principle of equality of opportunity in employment”.
Geraldine McGahey, chief commissioner of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, said: “Seamus gave 30 years of his working life to Irwin’s Bakery and still had a lot to offer.
“He felt that his age was a problem for his employer and believes that was why he was made redundant.
“In Northern Ireland it is unlawful to discriminate against employees because of their age,” McGahey added.