European court’s opinion on Spanish equal treatment case puts Heyday retirement age challenge in jeopardy

The legal challenge to the UK government’s mandatory retirement age received a major blow today when the advocate-general delivered his opinion on a similar Spanish case.

The advocate-general at the European Court of Justice stated that the EU Equal Treatment Framework does not apply to state laws setting retirement age.

His decision is not binding, but the judge in the case of Palacios v Cortefiel Servicios SA will be expected to follow it.

A case brought by Heyday, a spin-off of charity Age Concern, against the UK government’s retirement age, has also been referred to the European Court of Justice.

Earlier this month, Heyday operations director Andy Skarzynski told Personnel Today that employees could lodge age discrimination claims if they were forced to retire now, and win them retrospectively if the government lost the case.

James Baker, solicitor at law firm Macfarlanes, said of the advocate-general’s statement: “This will disappoint thousands of workers in the UK who are pinning their hopes on a legal challenge to the mandatory retirement age.

“This is a very significant decision, and may prove fatal to ongoing challenges to national retirement ages.”

Heyday believes the mandatory retirement age constitutes age discrimination as it allows people to be forced out of their jobs if they are aged 65 or older.

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