Dilemma for employers as Supreme Court makes retirement age decision

Employers with 'strong justification' can set employee retirement date in spite of abolition of DRA

Employers can still force employees to retire by a certain age, but only if there is strong justification for doing so, Britain’s most senior judges have ruled.

The landmark ruling by the Supreme Court raises questions about employers’ interpretation of the abolition of the default retirement age (DRA) last year.

Leslie Seldon, a solicitor, wanted to continue working but was told by his law firm that he had to retire after his 65 birthday. Seldon argued that the decision to force him to retire – which was taken before the DRA was abolished – amounted to age discrimination.

The fact that his appeal has been turned down will be welcomed by some employers who believe that allowing employees to work on indefinitely after the age of 65 has major cost implications, both in terms of salary costs and also higher health and risk employee benefit costs.

However, judges warned that employers must be very cautious about how they decide on when an employee should retire. Forcing someone to retire by a certain date is only acceptable if there is an exceptionally strong reason for doing so, they said.

The ruling is available here: http://www.supremecourt.gov.uk/docs/UKSC_2010_0201_Judgment.pdf

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