Compulsory Retirement Age
Monday 14th July 2014
The EAT has upheld the ET’s finding that 65 was an appropriate age for the compulsory retirement of a partner in Seldon v Clarkson Wright & Jakes.
Mr Seldon brought a claim of direct age discrimination after he was forced to retire as a partner in a firm of solicitors at the age of 65. Aspects of the case were appealed to the Supreme Court, which held that a compulsory retirement age was capable of justification if it was founded on achieving legitimate social policy aims, which in this case included staff retention and workforce planning.
The case was then remitted back to the ET, which in 2013 held that the firm’s decision to set its compulsory retirement age at 65 was objectively justifiable, even though 64 or 66 could also have been chosen. The finding was based in part on the fact that in 2006, when Mr Seldon was compulsorily retired, the firm also used the then lawful default retirement age of 65 for its employees.
On appeal to the EAT, Mr Seldon argued that if the firm’s aims could be achieved with a retirement age of 66, a lower age could not be justified. However, the EAT upheld the ET’s decision, noting that if Mr Seldon’s arguments were correct, a fixed age could never be justified. The ET’s role was to balance the discriminatory effect of a set retirement age against its success in achieving the legitimate aims. In applying that test, the ET had reached the correct conclusion.
However, a compulsory retirement of an employee may be judged differently and could amount to unlawful age discrimination.
All information in this update is intended for general guidance only and is not intended to be comprehensive, or to provide legal advice.