The government has defended its age discrimination regulations after the High Court said it would consider a judicial review of the legislation in December.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath called for support for the regulations, introduced on Sunday, in a speech to the lobby group the Age and Employment Network, formerly known as the Third Age Employment Network.
He said there were proven health benefits to being in work and said the legislation would ensure older workers were not denied the opportunity to increase their life expectancy and minimise the risks of depression, obesity and poverty.
“We have ambitious plans to improve workplace health and we have appointed a new director for health and well-being to work with employers, employees and their representatives to ensure that the right support is available at the right time to help people remain in work,” Lord Hunt said.
However, the claims currently facing the government are precisely because some people fear the age regulations will stop people working longer.
The regulations state that employers can force staff to retire at 65 and even though they have to consider a request to work on, employers don’t have to give reasons for denying such a request.
This led to the High Court action against the legislation brought by the Heyday organisation, which claims that compulsory retirement at 65 is illegal and that employers should be forced to give reasons if they do make staff retire.
The High Court will scrutinise the legality of the regulations, which Heyday claims contravene the European Equal Treatment Directive by “leaving people over 65 without the right or choice to work”.
The CBI lobbied the Department of Trade and Industry hard during the consultation process to ensure that a clause forcing employers to give reasons for retiring staff was not incorporated into the regulations.
Susan Anderson, director of HR policy at the CBI, said: “Once you are retired, you are retired – you can’t look back and try and find age discrimination.”