Golf clubs, the law and age discrimination

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir June 16, 2019 14:48 Updated

In its latest article offering legal advice to golf clubs, the National Golf Clubs’ Advisory Association (NGCAA) warns about making assumptions about capability based upon age.

In this article we examine the importance of ensuring that golf club employers do not make assumptions about the health, age and capability of their staff when dealing with their ability to perform the job. Before embarking upon a procedure to manage and potentially dismiss an employee, advice should be taken and careful thought given to the situation, particularly in relation to the correct reason for any action and in relation to the procedure to be adopted

The case of Jolly vs Royal Berkshire NHS Trust was recently heard in an employment tribunal where Ms Jolly, who had been employed by the trust since 1991, worked as a medical secretary until her dismissal. She brought claims unfair dismissal, age discrimination and disability discrimination following her dismissal in 2017.

It is thought that Ms Jolly is the oldest person ever to bring a claim of age discrimination, being 88 years of age at the time of her claim.


The facts of the case

The background to the claim was that Ms Jolly worked as a medical secretary for a consultant at the Berkshire NHS Trust. Shortly after a change in her role, she arrived at work one day to be told that she was under investigation for alleged waiting list breaches. She was then suspended and escorted off the premises.

Whilst on suspension, she received a letter from the trust to inform her that she was being investigated under the capability procedure and that she would be required to attend a meeting. Her trade union representative was unable to attend that meeting, so she requested a postponement of the meeting, but the trust refused that request.

Ms Jolly submitted a grievance alleging age discrimination and, in her appeal, she explained that she never received adequate training for the changed role and that the consultant (her immediate line manager) for whom she worked, had no issues or complaints with her work.

The grievance was ignored and Ms Jolly was subsequently dismissed. She appealed against her dismissal but this was rejected, on the basis of it having been lodged outside of the requisite time limit. It was found in the employment tribunal that this time limit point was incorrect.

Ms Jolly subsequently lodged claims for unfair dismissal, age discrimination and disability discrimination (on the basis of her heart condition and arthritis).

In the employment tribunal, her claims were upheld, along with a finding that assumptions had been made about her health and age, which had led to her dismissal. The employment tribunal noted that the investigation report included comments made by colleagues that Ms Jolly ‘had old secretaries’ ways’ and was ‘frail’. Another colleague was quoted as saying ‘it was a concern that you would walk in and find [Miss Jolly] dead on the floor’. The tribunal determined that these comments had influenced the decision maker.

The tribunal went on to hold that the failure to hear Ms Jolly’s appeal, not dealing with her grievance and suspending her on the basis of capability also amounted to less favourable treatment on the basis of her age and disability.

NGCAA comments

It is of the utmost importance when dealing with employees to ensure that matters are dealt with properly and that assumptions are not made in relation to staff when handling their ability to perform a job simply because of their age. Where employees of any age might be viewed as not performing to the required standard, then steps should be taken to establish a possible cause, regardless of age. It should not be assumed that a person is unable to perform simply because they are of a certain age.

The compensation has not yet been awarded in this case, but it could be quite considerable since Ms Jolly’s evidence was that she intended to work until she was 90 and that her treatment by the trust had left her feeling depressed, ashamed and humiliated.

For more advice on recruitment, employment or other matters of law affecting golf clubs, please contact NGCAA chief executive Alistair Smith. 

(New address) The National Golf Clubs’ Advisory Association (NGCAA)

The Media Centre, Emirates Riverside,

Chester-le-Street, County Durham, DH3 3QR

Tel: 01886 812943



Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir June 16, 2019 14:48 Updated
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