Employment relations minister defends decision on mandatory retirement age

Employment relations minister Jim Fitzpatrick has defended the government’s decision to allow mandatory retirement under the age discrimination laws.

Heyday, a membership organisation backed by charity Age Concern, has won a judicial review of the mandatory retirement age of 65. It claims compulsory retirement is illegal, and leaves people without the right to work. The High Court will scrutinise the law on 6 December.

But Fitzpatrick told Personnel Today the set retirement age would act as a “comfort blanket” for employers and employees during the period of culture change triggered by the legislation.

“If companies need a benchmark, then a default retirement age gives them something to say ‘this is where they want to be for a few years’,” he said.

The minister admitted that Heyday had a “legitimate point of view”, but insisted the government was taking a “common sense approach”.

“People in the normal population are living until their 70s, 80s and 90s. And they’re saying ‘I don’t want to go when I’m 60 or 65’,” he said. “They want the right to ask the company if they can work longer. It’s about trying to inject common sense into the relationship between employee and employer.”

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See next week’s issue for a full interview with Jim Fitzpatrick

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