Mr Woodcock was Chief Executive of North Cumbria PCT. North Cumbria PCT and several other trusts were merging to form Cumbria PCT and Mr Woodcock’s position was therefore at risk of redundancy. He was formally informed of this on 4 September 2006 and a search made for alternative employment. However by March 2007, no suitable employment had been found and so the redundancy process began with a consultation meeting scheduled for 10 April 2007. The meeting did not take place and another was scheduled for 6 June 2007.
The new chief executive of Cumbria PCT, Ms Page, believed that Mr Woodcock was attempting to delay the redundancy process and stretch out his notice in order to benefit from an enhanced pension. He would receive this if he was still working for the Trust when he turned 50 on 17 June 2008 and this could cost the Trust up to £1m. Therefore, despite having not consulted with him, Ms Page wrote to Mr Woodcock on 23 May 2007 to advise him that his position was redundant. His employment with the Trust would terminate on 22 May 2008 once he had served his 12 months notice.
Mr Woodcock claimed that his dismissal amounted to direct age discrimination.
The Employment Tribunal found that Mr Woodcock had suffered direct discrimination by being dismissed without proper consultation. Someone who would be aged 49 on 17 June 2008 would not have received notice of redundancy when Mr Woodcock did and they would not have been dismissed. However, according to the Employment Tribunal, this was justified as it was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
The legitimate aim pursued by the Trust was the avoidance of a windfall for an employee (avoidance of cost alone is not, in itself, a legitimate aim, but may be a factor along with others). The dismissal was a proportionate means of achieving this because of the delay in Mr Woodcock being given notice and the fact that, ultimately, there was no job for him. Mr Woodcock wanted a Chief Executive job and there were none. Extra consultation would have been fruitless and the discriminatory act was justified.
Woodcock v Cumbria Primary Care Trust ET/2506917/08