War veteran sacked from B&Q for leaving till open

Ivor Smith

An 82-year-old war veteran has been sacked from B&Q and frog-marched from the store after leaving his till open for three and a half minutes.

Despite having worked for the company for 12 years, great-grandfather Ivor Smith was given the boot from the Parkhead, Glasgow store.

"They treated me with utter contempt," he told an employment tribunal.

"I did my national service and served my country, and yet I get treated like this. I loved that job."

A father of seven, Ivor served with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in Malaya in 1955 and 1956. He worked for Hoover for 47 years, before taking on a job as a greeter at B&Q after retirement.

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But after a forklift ran over his foot in the store, leaving him with broken toes, Ivor was moved to check-out duties. He says he wasn't given any training.

And last August, he says, "A man wanted change of £200, which sounded a bit fishy, so I had to count and check the money. But I never left the immediate vicinity of the till at any time."

However, six days later, Ivor was told that he'd breached security by potentially allowing a thief to access the till. He was escorted from the building: "as if I was a common criminal," he says.

A B&Q spokeswoman has told the Daily Record that it can't comment, as the case is ongoing. However, she added, "B&Q have a strong track record of employing older workers."

Recent research has found that, in general, workers over the age of 50 are more reliable than their younger colleagues. They are less likely to take time off for ill-health, says research from insurer RIAS, and far less likely to throw a sickie.

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However, age discrimination is still rife, with more than half of workers believing that employers favour staff in their 20s. It's often unconscious, and it's hard to prove.

In fact, B&Q does have an excellent record when it comes to older workers. The company scrapped the compulsory retirement age in the mid-1990s and says that more than 30% of its current staff are over 50 - indeed, in 2013, it celebrated the 90th birthday of one employee.

"We have found that older workers have a great rapport with the customers, as well as a conscientious attitude and real enthusiasm for the job," chief executive Ian Cheshire said in 2006.

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War veteran sacked from B&Q for leaving till open

Pension experts at Mercer have identified the countries with the best pension systems. At number 10 is Singapore.

The system is based on the Central Provident Fund, which covers everyone in a job. Some of the cash can be withdrawn during your working life, and a prescribed minimum drawn down at retirement as an income.

Overall, Singapore scored 65.9 out of 100. It fared well on sustainability measures, and integrity, but relatively low incomes in retirement dragged its combined score down.

The UK scored 67.6 out of 100. The system was ruled to have great integrity, and good incomes in retirement. The overall scores were also up from the year earlier, as auto-enrolment was rolled out further, bringing more people into workplace schemes.

The researchers, however, were worried about how sustainable the system would be in the future. They called for an increase in minimum pensions, and added that more people ought to be encouraged into workplace schemes and persuaded to contribute more to their pension. They also wanted to see more people saving privately for their pension, and working later in life.

In Chile the state offers means-tested assistance, a mandatory centralised pension for employees to contribute to, and there are voluntary employer schemes.

Chile score 68.2 out of 100. Its highest score was for integrity, with another good mark for sustainability. Relatively low incomes in retirement let it down, and the researchers said the biggest improvements would come from raising the contribution levels.

Canada has a universal flat-rate pension - with a means-tested supplement. There’s an earnings-related pension based on lifetime earnings, plus voluntary workplace and private schemes.

It scored 69.1 out of 100. Its best score was for incomes in retirement, while it also performed well for integrity. Its only relative weak point was how sustainable it might be for the future - particularly because older people don't tend to stay in work.

Sweden has an earnings-related system with notional accounts - although this system was introduced in 1999 so it’s still in transition from a pay-as-you go system to a funded one. There’s also a means-tested top up.

Sweden was given 73.4 out of 100. It scored excellently for integrity, and well for sustainability. The overall score was brought down by incomes in retirement, and the researchers called for more workplace and private pensions.

Switzerland has an earnings-related public pension, a mandatory occupational system and voluntary private pensions.

It scored 73.9 out of 100. It fared well for integrity and reasonably well for incomes in retirement. The researchers just questioned its sustainability.

Finland has a means-tested basic state pension and a range of statutory earnings-related schemes. It scored 74.3 out of 100.

It had high integrity scores, with a less positive result for incomes in retirement, and a surprisingly low score for sustainability. The researchers called for higher minimum pensions, higher mandatory contributions and encouraging people to work longer to improve sustainability.

The Netherlands has a flat-rate public pension and quasi-mandatory earnings-related occupational schemes - which are industry-wide defined benefit schemes based on lifetime average earnings.

The system scored 79.2 out of 100. All its scores were high - particularly for the integrity of the system.

The system in Australia consists of a government scheme, a mandatory employer contribution into a pension, and additional voluntary contributions from individuals.

It benefits from the fact that all workers have been automatically enrolled in their company pension schemes for some time, so participation rates are high. The minimum contributions have also been raised recently, which means workers are building reasonable retirement incomes. It had an overall score of 79.9 out of 100, with the only question mark being over sustainability.

Denmark’s system includes a basic state pension, means-tested state top-ups, a fully funded defined contribution scheme and mandatory occupational schemes.

The researchers said it was "A first class and robust retirement income system". It scored 82.4 out of 100, with high marks across the board.

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