10 Jun 2014
The Supreme Court recently made a landmark ruling in relation to employers forcing workers to retire. The Supreme Court ruled that employers can force workers to retire if it is in the public interest.
The case involved Mr Leslies Seldon who was a partner at Clarkson Wright and Jakes. He was forced to retire just after his 65th Birthday and brought a claim for age discrimination. Clarkson Wright and Jakes argued that forcing retirement allowed for succession at the firm. They argued that there were legitimate aims for its retirement policy including; ensuring younger workers had the opportunity of becoming partner after a reasonable period; facilitating planning by having a realistic long term expectation as to when vacancies will arise and limiting the need to expel partners for poor performance.
Mr Seldon had his appeal turned down. The judgment, led by Lady Hale, said: “Improving the recruitment of young people, in order to achieve a balanced and diverse workforce, is in principle a legitimate aim. But if there is in fact no problem in recruiting the young and the problem is in retaining the older and more experienced workers then it may not be a legitimate aim for the business concerned”. Consideration needs to be given to whether a “public interest” was served by telling employees to retire. The Court added that “all business will now have to give careful consideration to what, if any mandatory retirement rules can be justified in their particular business”. It now appears that as long as business can prove that they have a legitimate public policy aim and they are promoting younger staff then a retirement policy may be justifiable.
Despite this ruling it is still not clear what age is an appropriate age to force someone to retire. The Court has referred that question back to the employment tribunal for judgement. Since the compulsory retirement age of 65 was abolished it is unclear what an appropriate age to retire is. We may have to wait until Mr Seldon’s case returns to the tribunal before that points gains clarity.
Professional advice should always be sought when dealing with legal issues. If you have any questions on this judgement or other Employment matters please do not hesitate to give Daniel Wilde, Head of Employment, HardingEvans Solicitors a call on 01633 760662 or email
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