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Margaret Hodge Recruitment

Recruitment & Employment Confederation   Association of Labour Providers

News : Supreme Court Judgement Allows Forced Retirement

Supreme Court Judgement Allows Forced Retirement

Employers can continue to set the age at which their staff retire if they can justify the reason.

Yesterday, Judges in the Supreme Court of the UK unanimously ruled that employers may legitimately enforce mandatory retirement but that employers must be able to prove there is strong justification for doing so - to allow younger workers into jobs for example.

The UK's most senior judges dismissed the appeal by Lesley Seldon, (a former lawyer himself) who claimed he had been the victim of age discrimination by the Law firm Clarkson Wright & Jakes, when he was forced to retire at the age of 65.

The Supreme Court decided that Clarkson Wright & Jakes had valid reasons for imposing a mandatory retirement age, but has sent Seldon's case back to an employment tribunal to reconsider whether forcing partners to leave after their 65th birthday rather than at a later age was appropriate and necessary.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said judging whether a justification is valid had proved confusing for both employers and employees. But in ruling on the case of Seldon v Clarkson, Wright & Jakes the Supreme Court justices have provided guidelines on when direct age discrimination may be justified.

The Supreme Court’s judgement stated: “The Court held that the aims of sharing employment between the generations, making it easier for younger workers to find work, particularly in a time of chronic unemployment, while protecting the rights of older workers whose pensions serve as replacement income, and not requiring employers to dismiss them on grounds of incapacity, which may be humiliating were in principle capable of objectively and reasonably justifying a difference in treatment on grounds of age.”

Christopher Mordue, partner within the employment practice at solicitors Pinsent Masons said: "So if the argument is that there is a need to create turnover of senior staff to recruit and retain younger workers, the employer has to show that it does in fact have problems in recruiting and retaining younger workers, and then must show that the retirement age they have chosen, rather than a higher age, is an appropriate solution to that problem."

Nick Hurley, partner at Charles Russell, told Recruiter Magazine: "It would be a mistake for employers to assume that this case gives the green light to enforcing a mandatory retirement age of 65 across their workforce based on a justification argument.”


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