A disabled man is set to return to paid work with his local leisure centre, following a public outcry and pressure from local press after it emerged he had been asked to leave his job of 17 years, but told he could continue to work for free.

Ronnie Hawthorn, who has Down’s syndrome, worked at Greenock Leisure Centre two days a week with an extra 3.7 voluntary hours totaling to just £30 a week.

The move that Inverclyde Council chiefs put down to cutbacks prompted widespread outrage from both Ronnie’s local community and the disability community after he was offered the opportunity to work unpaid and still attend staff nights out.

Ronnie, 47, told Scottish newspaper the Daily Record: “I feel a bit sad. I worked there for a long time.”                                     

Ronnie’s parents were invited for a meeting with leisure centre chiefs, but Ronald and Anne Hawthorn were told there would be no redundancy or compensation offered.

Inverclyde Leisure told the Daily Record before Ronnie’s job was reinstated: “We are disappointed Ronnie’s parents now feel this way after an agreement had been reached and we are meeting again to discuss this matter.

“We are confident a solution will be found, as Ronnie is a well thought of and respected employee of ­Inverclyde Leisure.”

Inverclyde Council, who own the leisure centre, said: “Staffing and any recruitment choices are an operational matter for the management of Inverclyde Leisure.”

Kamran Mallick, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said: “This a shocking case. It’s a prime example of how disabled people are treated differently. The lack of equality is astonishing. I can’t imagine the employer behaving this way to other non-disabled staff. There has been no due process, no consultation, no effort to redeploy this member of staff.”

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