Age: Nothing but a Number for Northumbrians

18 April 2014

At one point in their career almost everyone has concerns about being replaced by someone younger and 'fresher' than them. This concern became a very real issue for a former Countryfile presenter when she was dropped from the revamped BBC show.

Miriam O'Reilly took legal action against the Beeb after her dismissal in 2009 when she was replaced by Julia Bradbury and Katie Knapman - both over 10 years her junior - as part of the programme's move from its Sunday morning slot to primetime.

As news broke last week that O'Reilly had won her employment tribunal against the BBC, the landmark ruling sparked a debate over the type of presenters that people want to see on TV.

While some claim that working in the entertainment industry is different to the 'real world', as viewers want to see vibrant and attractive people on their screens, the law makes it clear that not even TV networks are allowed to replace popular personalities at a drop of a birthday hat.

As Northumberland has one of the fastest-ageing populations in the country the success of the Miriam O'Reilly case will be welcome news for the county's workforce.

People are already concerned about job security as many of the county's organisations are beginning to feel the full effects of last October's spending review - they shouldn't have to face the added worries about whether their age could become a factor.

Contrary to popular belief age discrimination is not just an issue facing older women working in showbiz - nationally there has been a steady rise in the number of age discrimination cases being taken to tribunals, rising from 972 in 2006-07 to 3,801 in 2008-09.

The reality of today's society is that people are living much longer lives so many wish to stay in work for much longer. As a county we rely much less on heavy industry and most jobs are less physically demanding so age should never even become an issue.

In the unfortunate situation where job losses are unavoidable employers should only take into consideration a person's ability to carry out their job and their capability to complete any new duties should roles be merged - it should never be based on age, race, sexuality or gender.

Northumberland residents worried about discrimination in the workplace and other employment issues can contact the team at DAWN Advice for free and independent advice on 0844 4111 309.