Heyday retirement age case begins at High Court

Andrew Lockley, partner and head of public law at Irwin Mitchell, the solicitors acting for Age Concern and Help the Aged in the “Heyday” case, talks to Susie Munro about the High Court hearing (17 July 2009).

The final stage of a three-year legal battle to scrap the national default retirement age begins at the High Court today (16 July).

The so-called Heyday case returns to court just days after the government announced that its review of the default retirement age (DRA) will be brought forward one year to 2010.

The UK government will have to make the case as to why its social or employment policy objectives make a retirement age of 65 necessary, following a ruling by European judges earlier this year.

Charities Age Concern and Help the Aged, which are behind the action, said the case piled more pressure on the government to scrap the DRA immediately. The charities argue that the DRA, introduced under age regulations in 2006, fails to interpret an EU directive against age discrimination correctly.

Millions of people approaching retirement will be waiting anxiously for the outcome of the case to find out whether the law will protect them if they want to continue working beyond the age of 65. Hundreds of employment tribunals are on hold until this case clarifies the law.

Michelle Mitchell, Charities Age Concern and Help the Aged charity director, said: “We’ve heard a lot from government over the past few days about the retirement age, but ministers have dragged their heels for years on this issue, forcing us to challenge it in the UK courts on behalf of older people across the country.

“While we wait for the government to finally end this discriminatory practice, we hope this case will, once and for all, stamp out the senseless practice of forcing people to retire at 65 purely on the basis of their age rather than ability to do a job.”

Personnel Today is supporting a campaign to force the government to scrap the DRA. You can sign our petition on the Number 10 website.

The hearing will run until 20 July, with a final judgment expected in the autumn.

Watch video clips on what the Heyday case means for employers.

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