Employment Law | Supreme Court Ruling May Undermine Abolition Of Retirement Age

The dismissal by five Supreme Court justices yesterday of a case brought to the Court of Appeal by a solicitor forced to retire at the age of 65, means that employers may now be able to bring back the mandatory retirement age, despite the practice being outlawed by the Government last year

Leslie Seldon, a former equity partner in a Kent law firm brought an age discrimination case against his firm for unlawfully making him retire at 65. However the Supreme Court ruled that the retiring of partners was “a legitimate business aim.”

Rob Eldridge, an employment partner at law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner says: “The Supreme Court has thrown a lifeline to those businesses that see their staffing arrangements to be better supported by the retention – or even reintroduction – of a mandatory retirement age.”

While Richard Fox, partner and head of employment at law firm Kingsley Napley, said: “This is a significant decision… The abolition of the default retirement age and increasing numbers of people wanting to work longer to make up for inadequate pension provision, combined with economic pressure on jobs, is a real conundrum for employers.

“In that sense the guidance offered by the Supreme Court … that it is possible to justify compulsory retirement on specific grounds is very much to be welcomed.”

However, Clive Howard, employment partner at Russell Jones and Walker said: “Employers should not form the view that this means it will be lawful to force staff to retire at 65 up and down the country.

“There were specific factors which applied to this small law firm in Kent, which will not be relevant to every organisation. The Supreme Court has asked the Employment Tribunal to consider whether the retirement age of 65 was justified on the facts of this case.”

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Mackrell Turner Garrett Solicitors in London