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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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Test case could see employers set their own DRA

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A landmark court case due to take place this week could make it possible for UK employers to set their own default retirement age, even though the state does not have one.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to rule on whether a City law firm was within its rights to force former partner, Leslie Seldon, to retire when he turned 65.
 
Clarkson, Wright & Jakes told the Daily Telegraph that ensuring all of its partners retired at that age was “legitimate and justifiable” because it enabled associates to move up the ranks to become partners and gave them reasonable expectations around when senior vacancies would appear.
 
The case has been working its way through the UK legal system for the last five years and pre-dates the abolition of the Default Retirement Age, which occurred last October. In 2008, an appeals tribunal ruled that the CW&J’s aims were legitimate and the Court of Appeal also agreed with its findings two years later.
 
Tom Flanagan, head of employment at law firm Irwin Mitchell, said the ruling would act as a test case for the entire UK private sector as well as the legal world. “If the law firm wins, that means it is possible for an employer to have its own default retirement age even though the state doesn’t have one,” he explained.
 
Under the current regulations, employers can already seek to ‘objectively justify’ imposing a given retirement age, for example, for manual workers in physically demanding jobs. Today, few companies go down this route as they are afraid of ending up in court, but a favourable outcome in the Seldon case could change this situation.
 
Employers would still have to justify why they needed to retire people at a certain age and clarify the rules to personnel in advance, Flanagan said. But they would be within their rights to impose different retirement ages on different groups of workers based on their role, he added.
 
The hearing will take place over three days starting on Tuesday 17 January.
 
 

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Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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