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Compulsory Retirement Age – Seldon revisited
Last year the Supreme Court remitted back to the Employment Tribunal the case of Seldon v Clarkson Wright and Jakes, the case on age discrimination and whether a law firm was justified in imposing a mandatory retirement age of 65. …
Last year the Supreme Court remitted back to the Employment Tribunal the case of Seldon v Clarkson Wright and Jakes, the case on age discrimination and whether a law firm was justified in imposing a mandatory retirement age of 65. The Tribunal had to consider a number of issues relating to justifying the age discrimination, the main one being whether 65 was a proportionate age for a mandatory retirement age or whether another age should have been adopted. In a judgement which will hearten employers, Mr Seldon lost.
The Tribunal held that retention and planning were legitimate aims, that collegiality was also a legitimate aim, albeit with some reservations; and importantly that a mandatory retirement age achieved those aims. It also held that a mandatory retirement age of 65 was a proportionate means of achieving those aims.
This cannot be taken as a free rein for employers to justify a mandatory retirement age of 65, however, because justification will always depend on the particular facts of each circumstance and nature of the employer’s business. Furthermore, interestingly, the case was based on social policy and demographics in 2006 – before the abolition of the national retirement age. Crucially, the Tribunal specifically stated that the case might be decided differently if these facts arose today.
Consequently this decision should be treated with some caution and the principle not universally adopted without careful consideration of the particular situation in question.
This legal update is provided for general information purposes only and should not be applied to specific circumstances without prior consultation with us.
For further details on any of the issues covered in this update please contact Gemma Ospedale, Partner in Employment on 020 7583 2222.