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Heydey case to be sent back to UK high court


The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has this morning given its decision on the ‘Heyday challenge’ to the default retirement age of 65 as set out in the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006.

In the latest round of legal rulings, the ECJ has found that the Default Retirement Age (DRA) does not contravene the European Framework Directive on equal treatment, which means employers can continue to retire employees at the age of 65.

The news has been heavily criticised by age campaigners who have slammed the government for putting out contradictory statements. Commenting on the ECJ ruling, Gordon Lishman, director general of Age Concern said: “Only last week, ministers criticised the ‘grey ceiling’ which stops people working beyond the age of 65. Yet, they continue to consign millions of willing and able older workers to the scrapheap by maintaining the very barrier which prevents them from extending their working lives. It is time for ministers to find the courage of their convictions and abolish the default retirement age without further delay.”

The case will now return to the High Court for a decision on whether the default retirement age can be objectively justified by the UK government.

Alex Lock, employment law expert at Beachcroft LLP, added that any changes to the law will have to wait until there is a final decision by the High Court, which is expected to be announced in 2010. “The battleground will now turn to social policy objectives, such as employment and training issues, as they will be the focus of the justification agreement,” he said.

The judicial review, formerly known as the Heyday case, against the national default retirement age was brought in the public interest by the National Council of Ageing. It argues that the UK government has improperly implemented the EU directive upon which the Age Regulations were based, both allowing forced retirement and by giving employers too much scope for age-based rules in the workplace.

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