Employers have been urged to watch closely a High Court claim being brought against the government over the forthcoming age discrimination legislation.
As part of the mandatory retirement age clause, staff will have a right to request to work beyond the age of 65, but employers will not have to give a reason for refusal.
The Heyday group, backed by Age Concern, claims the new law contravenes European equal rights legislation, and employers should have to give a reason for refusal.
“Taking the government to court is not a step Heyday is taking lightly, but we are determined to challenge the existence and legality of the mandatory retirement age,” the group said. “It’s what people approaching retirement want; it’s good for business, good for the economy and good for society.”
Audrey Williams, employment partner at law firm Eversheds, said the implications for employers would be “very significant” if Heyday succeeded.
“If it establishes that the new legislation isn’t lawful, we will be back to square one in terms of having to look at retirement ages,” she said. “It could cause chaos for employers, with a heightened risk of individuals taking action against them. It will be interesting to see what the government’s response will be.”
Employers will fight any move to include a reason for refusal in the law. The CBI lobbied the Department of Trade and Industry hard during the consultation process to ensure this clause was not part of 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.”
The government has until 24 July to respond to Heyday’s application. If the case proceeds, a full hearing could be in early autumn.