The former presenter of BBC’s Countryfile, Miriam O’Reilly has won her age discrimination claim against the BBC – see BBC news. Ms O’Reilly, 53, was dropped in November 2008 after being told the BBC wished to “refresh” Countryfile and replaced her, and 3 other female presenters, with Strictly Come Dancing’s Matt Baker and Julia Bradbury both of whom are notably younger than Ms O’Reilly.
During the Tribunal, it was alleged that Ms O’Reilly had been asked if it was “time for Botox” and told to “be careful with those wrinkles when High Definition comes in”.
In a statement following the decision the BBC acknowledged the contribution Ms O’Reilly had made to the BBC throughout the years and did not rule out her return to the BBC.
Compensation has not yet been awarded to Ms O’Reilly but a separate remedies hearing is expected to take place in a few weeks. The maximum award for an age discrimination claim last year was just under £49,000. However, early reports suggest that Ms O’Reilly may obtain in excess of £100,000. It may be that we will never get to hear of the actual award as it is possible that the BBC may attempt to settle the matter prior to the remedies hearing.
I commented on this piece for Radio Scotland’s Newsdrive programme last night and one of the points I made which surprised the presenter, Bill Whiteford, was that age discrimination doesn’t just affect older employees but that younger employees can also raise an age discrimination claim on the basis that they were treated less favourably than older employees.
One of the other interesting points in this case was that the main presenter John Craven who was 68 at the time continued with his role in Countryfile. This was potentially useful evidence for the BBC to show that they were not discriminating on the grounds of age. However, what seems to have happened is that the Tribunal took the view that the age discrimination took place at the second tier level of presenters.