Challenge to forced retirement fails

25 September 2009

The High Court has ruled that compulsory retirement at age 65 is legal and should remain in place for the time being.

Earlier this year, the government brought forward plans to review the age at which people can be compulsory retired by one year to 2010.

Despite ruling in favour of the forced retirement age, the judge in the High Court case admitted that there is a case for the default retirement age to be increased – once the government has completed its review.  

Mr Justice Blake told the High Court: “I cannot presently see how 65 could remain as a default retirement age after the review.”

He added that if there had been no indication of an imminent review, he would have concluded setting 65 as a retirement age “would not have been proportionate”.

The law currently gives the default retirement age of 65 - therefore, compulsory retirement before people hit 65 is unlawful unless the employer can provide an objective reason.

Once you hit 65, you have the right to request to continue working and your employer must consider this request. However, they retain the right to retire you as long as they follow the correct procedure.

Employers can refuse to hire candidates aged over 65.
The High Court ruling has prompted renewed calls for the default retirement age to be scrapped altogether.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission argues that many older workers want to remain in work beyond the age of 65. 

“The number of older employees is increasing and the law should support those who wish to carry on working and making an economic contribution,” says John Wadham, legal group director at the Commission. “Many employers have said they think that having a mandatory retirement age is more trouble than it’s worth.”

There are 1.4 million people working past state pension age, according to the Office of National Statistics, up from 1.2 million people a year ago. The poor performance of pension funds is one reason many people aged 65 and over are going back to work.

However, with pensioners now outnumbering school children, there are serious concerns about the future of the state pension and other benefits, and how the government will fund these.

Age charities believe the government should now speed up plans to scrap the default retirement age altogether.

“[The High Court’s] judgement makes it crystal clear that this unfair legislation is past its sell by date,” says Andrew Harrop, head of public policy at Age Concern and Help the Aged.

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