People aged over 65 who want to keep on working face an uphill battle, following the long-awaited judgment of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in a challenge to the UK’s Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006, which were introduced to stamp out ageism in the workplace. The challenge was made by Heyday, a branch of the charity Age Concern.
Specifically, Heyday challenged the Government over the inclusion in the Regulations of a mandatory retirement age of 65 on the grounds that this meant that they do not fully implement the EU Equal Treatment Framework Directive.
The ECJ has ruled that a national retirement age may be lawful, but such a measure must be justified by legitimate social policy objectives, such as those related to employment policy, the labour market or vocational training. It is for the national courts to decide whether a compulsory retirement age can be justified as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. There is no requirement for the Regulations to contain a list of legitimate aims that are permissible.
The case will now return to the High Court to determine whether or not the UK’s imposition of the retirement age limit of 65 passes the justification test. There are an estimated 800 age discrimination tribunal claims that have been stayed pending this decision.
However, Age Concern and Help the Aged have vowed to fight on and have called on the Government to abolish the mandatory retirement age, thereby obviating the need for the case to return to Court.
Nearly 40 per cent of people wish to continue working after 65 and the two charities have criticised Government Ministers for applying double standards and sending mixed messages to older workers. On the one hand they are being encouraged to carry on working beyond the age of 65 yet there is legislation in place that can prevent them from so doing. The mandatory retirement age for civil servants was scrapped some months ago and, were the rule to apply to MPs, one in eight of them would be out of a job.
Says <<CONTACT DETAILS>>, “In practice, this means that a compulsory retirement age is lawful if the Government can demonstrate that its introduction was justified in order to fulfil legitimate aims connected with national social or employment policy. The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform has said that it will review the default retirement age in 2011.”