Employers have been warned against complacency over the legal challenge to the mandatory retirement age, after the expected date for a verdict slipped towards 2009.
Solicitors acting for Heyday, the Age Concern group behind the challenge, admitted that ongoing legal arguments have postponed a European Court of Justice (ECJ) decision for at least another 18 months.
But, with a survey revealing that three in four small firms have made no provision for staff wishing to work beyond 65, lawyers said such companies were risking retrospective legal action.
The UK High Court ruled in December 2006 that the Heyday case against the Department of Trade and Industry should be referred to the ECJ. Solicitors for the two parties were expected to agree on a list of questions for referral by January, but are still arguing over the wording.
Andrew Lockley, solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, which is acting for Heyday, said: “Companies making people retire are leaving themselves open to legal risk.”