Former RTÉ reporter Valerie Cox, who was "devastated" when her freelance contract was terminated by her employer because of her age, has won €50,000 compensation.

Valerie Cox had two separate contracts: a full time role which provided for a clear retirement age of 65 years old, and a freelance contract which did not. Initially, she was told that when her full time contract ended she would be placed on the roster for casual work, but only after a period of time had passed.

I had a contract to do What It Says in the Papers. This contract was still live, there was no reference in it to retiring at any specific age. I assumed I would be continuing that after I retired from the main job, which did have the statutory 65. I kept contacting the organisation after I left, I was actually on the roster for the month after I left. That was taken off and I was told I have to wait for a while, there has to be a little break between you leaving the main job and coming back again for the freelance.
— Valerie Cox

Valerie Cox said that months went by and, despite chasing for any update about a return to her freelance position, she heard nothing. Only 9 months later was she told that she would not be allowed to return and that “it is on age grounds”.

At the hearing, RTE argued that the retirement age for freelancers was set out in the handbook, but the Workplace Relations Commission's adjudication officer found that the handbook did in fact provide for continuation of a role after the age of 65. 

For these reasons, it ruled in Valerie Cox's favour.

The decision is available here.

Politics and reform of retirement age

Labour leader Brendan Howlin wants to stop cases like this from happening again. He has called for legislation to abolish the mandatory retirement age in the public sector, and to ensure those working in the private sector will be able to keep working after the age of 65 if they so desire.

There are many people working in both the public and private sectors who for whatever reason do not wish to retire at the age of 65, and are more than capable of continuing on and making a valuable contribution to the workforce for another few years. For those who want to work we need to ensure their rights are protected in law.
— Labour leader Brendan Howlin