Heyday warns retirement age challenge is not over yet

The legal challenge against the UK’s mandatory retirement age is far from over, Heyday has warned.

The advocate-general of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled last week that the compulsory retirement age of 65 was lawful, despite the campaigning group, an arm of charity Age Concern, claiming the legal interpretation of the EU directive upon which the age regulations are based is wrong.

But there is no guarantee that the ruling by the judges at the ECJ, expected in December, will follow the advocate-general’s opinion, Heyday has stressed.

The case will also still return to London after the ECJ ruling, where the High Court will look at all the evidence and decide whether the national default retirement age can be justified.

Heyday director Ailsa Ogilvie said this means the case has not reached the end of the line. “Unfortunately, many of the recent media reports have misinterpreted the legal nuances of the Heyday case,” she said. “The fact is that we still have a strong case and we will fight on for the millions of older workers in the UK.”

The UK government will have to make a case to the High Court as to why its social policy or employment policy objectives make a national default retirement age necessary. The High Court will be guided by the ECJ’s interpretation of EU law.

Gordon Lishman, director general of Age Concern, said: “Direct discrimination on the basis of age is a serious issue and only justifiable in very limited circumstances. We are hopeful that the High Court will reach the same conclusion.”

Heyday also claimed that despite Europe’s ageing population, the advocate general’s opinion “implied that ageism is less significant than other forms of discrimination”, leaving workers open to direct discrimination in the workplace because of their age.

According to the Employment Tribunals Service, about 260 cases in England, Scotland and Wales are awaiting a ruling on whether forcing workers to retire at 65 is illegal.

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