Saturday 18 August 2018

Former RTÉ presenter awarded €50,000 by Workplace Relations Commission after age discrimination finding

Valerie Cox
Valerie Cox
Melanie Finn

Melanie Finn

Former RTÉ employee Valerie Cox has spoken of her desire to stay in her role at Montrose.

The former presenter was awarded €50,000 yesterday by the Workplace Relations Commission after they found the broadcaster had discriminated against her on age grounds.

Speaking on Sean O'Rourke this morning, Ms Cox said: "I loved working with you, it was a lovely, lovely job. I would have loved to have stayed on, I don't know how long for but I would have loved it.

"I'm working as a freelance journalist and still loving it. It's one of the best jobs in the world," she said.

Asked if she would still like to do her famous 'It Says in the Papers' slot, she replied that she would "be there in a heart-beat."

"I would go in at 5 o'clock in the morning, I would be the first person to read the papers, the first person to find out all the opinion pieces and so on. it's a pure joy."

She said she probably wouldn't need to work for about two and a half years after the judgement but added, "but Sean, it's not my doing."

Ms Cox was on two contracts with RTE.

Her main contract was a staff contract, and it was from this position that she retired.

The second contract was a freelance contract for the 'What It Says In The Papers' slot on RTE Radio's flagship programme 'Morning Ireland', as well as early morning slots on the weekends.

Ms Cox said she was assured she could continue with this contract after she retired from her staff contract. She told Sean O'Rourke she had discussions with a number of managers who had assured her this would continue after she took a 'break' when she retired on her main contract.

However, she said when she contacted RTE to resume her freelance contract work after her "break", she was told by someone in RTE that she could not come back. Ms Cox said she was also informed this was due to her age.

Employment Law Solicitor Richard Grogan told Sean O'Rourke that RTE does not actually have a specific retirement age - that there are other individuals in the organisation have continued to work over the age of 65 but as independent contractors whereas Valerie was an employee.

RTE said it did not comment on individual cases, or whether it was planning to appeal the ruling.

Meanwhile, the WRC’s ruling has been described as a “landmark decision” in the Dáil.

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin said Ms Cox’s case will the first of many on the basis of ageism as people seek to work longer.

He called on the Government to prioritise legislation which will remove the compulsory retirement age of 65 from many sectors of the public service.

In response, Tánaiste Simon Coveney welcomed the judgment, saying he hopes “it sends a signal out for many people in a similar situation to Valeria Cox”.

The minister said plans to remove the compulsory retirement age are being advanced and will come into effect “as soon as possible”.

Interim arrangements have been put in place for State employees who hit the age of 65 before the new legislation is passed.

Mr Coveney said changing the law is the “right thing to do on a lot of levels”.

He told the Dáil people are living longer and healthier for longer.

“The State actually needs their services for longer too,” he said

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