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Charlie Duff

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Editor, HRzone.co.uk

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High court says retirement age can stay – for now

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The ruling is in. With the Government announcing it was bringing forward a review of the Default Retirement Age (DRA)  to 2010, Mr Justice Blake has ruled that the DRA can stay. He did, however, recognise the ‘very substantial weight’ of arguments put forward by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and Age UK to stop people being forced out of work at 65.

 

John Wadham, Legal Group Director for the Commission, said, “The number of older employees is increasing and the law should support those who wish to carry on working and making an economic contribution. Many employers have said they think that having a mandatory retirement age is more trouble than it’s worth."

CIPD Diversity Adviser, Dianah Worman added: “The High Court has missed a trick to resolve this issue once and for all. The government itself has admitted that the days of the DRA are numbered. It seems counter-intuitive to drag this decision out even further while thousands of older people will be forced out of work in an already difficult jobs market. We do not buy the HR argument that businesses can’t manage their workforce without the DRA. If you have poor performers in your organisation you should also have the performance management systems to deal with them. You wouldn’t wait 25 years to remove a poorly-performing 40 year-old."

Recent findings from law firm Eversheds claimed that the vast majority of employers – 73 percent – wanted to keep the DRA in place. Lawyers Beachcroft today claimed the decision comes as a welcome relief to employers – although not to those waiting on decisions. Rachel Dineley, Head of the Diversity and Discrimination Unit, commented: "Today’s decision confirms that the UK Government has the flexibility to set a retirement age, and that issues such as employment and training can be the basis for justifying dismissing such employees. Cases that were put on hold, pending this decision, will now be dismissed."

However, the Court did say that the position may have been different if the Government had not already recently announced that they will review the current rules on retirement in 2010. The Judge commented that he could not see how the default retirement age could remain at 65 after the review.

Jon Coley, employment partner at Pinsent Masons LLP, added, "This is good news for employers, especially those who have been retiring employees at 65. But this is only a short window of opportunity; with the government looking to review the default retirement age  next year this is certainly not the last we’ll hear about this."

The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations do not make retirement at 65 compulsory. Employees maintain the right to ask to carry on working beyond the age of 65 even if their employer has a normal retirement age in place: but for now employers remain able to retire employees legally once they reach 65.
 

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Charlie Duff

Editor, HRzone.co.uk

Read more from Charlie Duff
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