Britain’s biggest airport car parking company, Purple Parking, has admitted age discrimination against its workers after it sacked dozens of them for being too old.
Drivers at the company, which provides bus shuttle services and car chauffeuring at Heathrow car parks, were told they could no longer work over the age of 67 due to a change in its insurance policy’s exclusions for older employees.
However, it has emerged in an employment Tribunal nearly two years later that Purple Parking had actually asked the insurer to change its policy to exclude older drivers, while requesting it not to apply to directors and their wives.
“It was absolutely devastating,” said bus driver Brian Davies, 70. “They just wanted an excuse to get rid of us. I’d been working there for nearly 10 years and loved the job. But what they did to us was calculated, cold and callous.”
Now, the company which also runs parking services at dozens of other UK airports, has been ordered to pay up to £78,000 each to the 21 employees who took it to the Tribunal. In total, the awards come to more than £150,000.
However, Unite, the union which took on several of the cases, said Purple Parking had not yet paid up as they are considering an appeal.
Details of the company’s behaviour over the insurance contracts only emerged when the employees’ legal team obtained an order for the insurance company, Allianz, to release key documents and memos.
According to Allianz’s evidence, it had been asked by its client to insert what it described as the “unusual” age restriction.
It supplied the Tribunal a memo from Purple Parking’s insurance brokers to Allianz, which said: “The client (Purple) is looking to apply an upper age limit of 65 for employees to the road risks section (excluding directors, spouses, etc)”.
Allianz said such a request was “unusual” and that at no point had it required such a limit to the cover. In the end, at Purple Parking’s request, an age maximum of 67 was set.
Purple Parking stopped contesting the sacked workers’ claims soon after the Allianz documents emerged. It admitted liability for unfair dismissal and/or age discrimination, the Watford Tribunal judgement says.
Accounts for the company show it made a profit last year of £5.6 million on sales of £18.8 million and had more than 300 staff.
As well as its work at Heathrow, Purple Parking offers parking services at 27 other UK airports.
Unite regional secretary Peter Kavanagh said: “This is a shocking case of age discrimination by Purple Parking at one of the world’s most well-known airports.
“Even now, Purple Parking is considering a challenge to the amount of money owed to the victims it discriminated against. It just goes to show the lengths bad employers will go to at the expense of workers.”
Barrister Dirk van Heck of Malins Chambers, who is representing Purple Parking, said in a statement on its behalf: “The Company conceded liability during the trial. As to the awards made by the tribunal, the Company will consider its position on receipt of the written reasons of the tribunal.”