Has the advocate-general’s decision called time on Heyday’s retirement age challenge?
The UK's controversial mandatory retirement age was back in the headlines last week when the European Court of Justice's (ECJ) advocate-general passed his judgment on the Heyday case. But what exactly does it all mean, and where does it leave UK employers?
The current law
Since 1 October 2006, when the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations came into force, the UK's default retirement age has been 65 for both men and women. This means employers can legally tell staff to leave on any date after their 65th birthday for no reason other than their age. However, employees have the right to request to continue working, and employers have a duty to consider such requests.
Heyday, a spin-off of the charity Age Concern, objected to this situation from the outset, claiming it amounted to age discrimination. Heyday took its challenge through the UK legal system, and reached the High Court in December 2006.
There it argued that people aged 65 or over were given "second-class status", as they could be retired without explanation, while people under 65 had to be given sound grounds for dismissal. The government countered that people aged 65 or older were "not in comparison" with younger people, as they received a state pension.
The advocate-general's opinion
Last week, in a precursor to the main hearing, the ECJ advocate-general gave his opinion. Although not binding, it is generally seen as a good indication of the ECJ's decision.