A landmark challenge to scrap the compulsory retirement age for employees will now be heard in less than a month, it has emerged.
Charity Heyday, part of Age Concern, will dispute the legal retirement age of 65 at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on 2 July – months earlier than the 2009 date originally planned.
Heyday claims the UK government was in breach of the EU’s Equal Treatment Directive by imposing a mandatory retirement age.
If the challenge is successful, many employees who were made to retire at 65 could claim age discrimination, with many already putting claims on the record in case the UK government loses.
Rachel Krys, chief executive of the Employers’ Forum on Age, said previously: “Employers are at huge risk if they are operating a mandatory retirement age. As publicity about the Heyday case increases, there might be lots more people lodging age claims.”
If Heyday wins, it could throw age discrimination law into further confusion, legal experts have warned.
Earlier this year, a tribunal ruled that Kent-based law firm Clarkson Wright and Jakes (CWJ) did not discriminate against Leslie Seldon, a former senior partner, by forcing him to retire at the age of 65.
But partner and head of the employment team at law firm B P Collins, Jo Davis, said: “If the ECJ challenge is successful and Mr Seldon’s appeal is not, we could find ourselves in the reverse situation to that legislated for: employees able to choose to work beyond 65, and partners who are forced to retire. Until we have clarity, many partners may struggle to work beyond 65, even if they wish to.”
However, Krys urged employers to focus on the business benefits of letting people work beyond 65. “If you get your performance management right, then it will pay dividends,” she said. “It can increase employee motivation, retain knowledge and reduce recruitment costs. HR has a big role to play in making changes happen, and persuading senior executives that they should happen.”
In this clip Pinsent Masons employment law partner Ashley Norman speaks to HR Network TV about the business benefits of operating without a retirement age.