A 75-year-old shop assistant claims his ex-boss told him to “find a job at B&Q” before sacking him because he was too old.

Brian Smith told an employment tribunal he was sacked from his job at gift shop Bennetts of London, in Wanstead High Street, because his manager wanted 'younger and more creative' employees.

Mr Smith, of Karen Terrace, Leytonstone, also told the hearing today (October 6) his former employer Veronica Bennett cut his working hours in half without consulting him.

He says she failed to offer him other work and ended up sacking him on March 20 because she “wanted new blood”.

He added she did not tell him the shop had reopened after it was closed for refurbishment last summer.

Mr Smith, who worked in the shop for 10 years, said: “When I checked the rota and saw I wasn’t on it at all I tried to ring Mrs Bennett but she said she was busy.

“I didn’t hear anything, so I kept ringing and ringing.”

When they finally met, Mr Smith asked to return to his previous 14-hour contract, but Mrs Bennett said she could only offer one and a half hour five days a week.

She claimed because the shop no longer sold newspapers, and that was “80 per cent of Mr Smith’s job”, it was all she could offer.

Mr Smith continued: “I took that very offensively - to travel through rush hour traffic there and back for one and a half hour’s work when I had not long lost my wife.

“Then she told me I should go and apply for a job at B&Q and that she needed new blood in the shop.”

Mrs Bennett “categorically denies” both “personal and offensive” remarks.

She claims she was entitled to offer Mr Smith redundancy because the shop had stopped selling newspapers and was “unwilling” to do other jobs.

She said: “I never said those things.

“I was told by a customer he would often shut the shop early and regularly had complaints that when he blew up the helium balloons they would just fly away when you walked outside.”

Mr Smith was then signed off sick, which his witness statement claims was partly due to “work stress that was affecting his mental health”.

Mrs Bennett claims she offered him redundancy pay and a job that would have seen his hours increase by 13 before that, but Mr Smith denies it.

He said: “I didn’t apply for the weekend job because I didn’t know if she’d dismissed me or not.

“After I tried to apply for other jobs, but they all knocked me back because I had no proof of dismissal – they wouldn’t even look at my application.”

The hearing also heard from Helen Hamilton, 62, who resigned from Bennetts in June.

She claimed Mrs Bennett said she wanted “younger, more creative” employees and “wanted to get rid of Mr Smith”.

But in his closing statement, Mrs Bennett’s solicitor claimed she had been employing people “of a mature age” since she started managing the shop.

He said: “Mr Smith’s hours changed because the nature off the business changed.

“After his sick note expired he made no effort to contact Mrs Bennett, so it was 100 per cent likely he would have been dismissed fairly.

“His age was completely irrelevant.”

The tribunal will finish tomorrow when the judge will deliver her verdict.