Hospital trust staff forced to step down

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MORE than 200 hospital staff aged over 65 in Sheffield have been told they must step down this autumn – receiving their letters just a week before the national default retirement age was scrapped.

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust wrote to 203 staff who are over 65 to inform them their contracts would cease on October.

They were sent on March 31 – just a week before the default retirement age of 65 was scrapped by the Government.

The trust has said it was following a policy where if a post was no longer required, the employee would automatically be retired.

Margaret Sharpe, aged 67, received a letter after working with the trust for 35 years.

She said: “My age and capability have never been questioned, so why suddenly now?

“You just feel that you’re being shabbily cast aside.”

Thelma Best, 67, a support worker at Weston Park Hospital, has also been told she must stand down.

Thelma has worked at the hospital for 30 years and is appealing the decision. She said: “I am punctual, hardworking and trustworthy. I also have an excellent attendance record, showing that I am a very committed and reliable member of the team.

“I really enjoy my job and do not want to retire.

“It all seems contradictory as the Government is now asking people to work for as long as they can, yet I am being made to retire at 68.”

Andy Freeman, from the union Unison, said the policy was a ‘cheap way to get people out of the door’.

He added: “I think the trust has been very clumsy in the way they’ve handled this because retirement is a very individual decision. Some of these people are continuing to work because they have to.”

Mark Gwilliam, director of human resources at the trust, said: “This is not a decision we have taken lightly because we do acknowledge the service Thelma and others give to the hospital.

“However our retirement policy, prior to the recent change in legislation, was that when a person reaches 65, if their post was no longer required to meet service needs at that time or in the future they would be required to retire.”