Heyday decision: Employer and legal reaction to the ECJ ruling

Heyday decision: Employer and legal reaction to the ECJ ruling on the Heyday legal challenge to the default retirement age (DRA).

Mike Emmott, employee relations adviser, CIPD

“Hopefully the government will realise sooner rather than later that scrapping the DRA is a must. Not just to meet the growing demand for working beyond 65, but also because it is hugely beneficial to business and the wider economy.

“Compulsory retirement ages can leave organisations blindly waving goodbye to valuable skills and experience. They do not just hit people at retirement age they can lead to lazy management of workers for many years as older employees are filed by their managers under the ‘soon to retire’ category.”

Tim Marshall, UK head of the employment practice. DLA Piper

“The government will have to provide evidence to support its case that it had a legitimate aim related to employment policy and the labour market when it decided to make an exemption for a default retirement age in the Employment Equality Age Regulations 2006.

“Crucially, to be on the right side of the law the government will have to show a high standard of proof that the default retirement age was an appropriate and necessary means of achieving that aim.”

John Cridland, deputy director-general, CBI

“The decision by the European Court of Justice is a victory for common sense. Some people can happily work in their existing job beyond the age of 65, but this is not possible for all occupations.

“The current system – where there is a default retirement age of 65, but people can request to carry on beyond this age – works well. It provides flexibility, and our research shows that 81% of requests to work beyond 65 are accepted. Companies don’t want to lose good people, whatever their age.”

Schona Jolly, barrister, Cloisters

“This is a much more positive ruling for anti-age discrimination campaigners than was expected. Although the court said direct age discrimination can be justified, it has made clear that age discrimination can only be justified by an employer that can point to a public interest aim it is pursuing. The employer cannot simply say that it was cheaper to discriminate or that discriminating made the business more competitive.

“Furthermore, it is likely that the High Court ruling will be another 12 months away or more, during which time the political and economic landscape will have changed even more markedly than it has over the period during which this case has been debated.”

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