The High Court has struck a blow in favour of an employer’s ability to force workers to retire at 65, but has also dealt a backhander to the government, giving hope to Age Concern and other campaigners that the current legal situation will not be with us for much longer.
When European legislation against age discrimination was brought in, the question of whether it would be legal to discriminate against an employee who reaches 65 by sacking them for that reason alone, could be answered with a simple “Yes”.
Campaigners believe, however, that this could and should be challenged as not reflecting the spirit or intention of the European legislation which England and Wales has to uphold in its own laws.
Around 260 Employment Tribunal claims have been waiting for this decision to see if they could get off the ground. It is now clear that they will probably fail.
The upshot of this means that anyone 65 or older, who is currently facing compulsory retirement has no legal right to demand to continue working for the same employer.
Employer’s organisations point out that the ability to force retirement is a lot more dignified than putting the elderly through performance management, and capability related dismissal procedures at the end of their working lives.
However, against a background of what many consider to be reckless mortgage lending in the past decade, there are many people approaching 65 who need to carry on working just to keep a roof over their heads.
The government may change the law in the future which will give hope to those born after 1944 who want or need to carry on working. For now, it’s a question of “watch this space”……
by James Taylor