Update 9 March 2009: It was expected that the European Court of Justice would follow the opinion of the Advocate General. Indeed they have, ruling that a compulsory retirement age of 65 is capable of being justified as being a ‘proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’ and so therefore is not age discrimination.
The case will now have to go back to the High Court, where the Government will need to justify a legitimate aim linked to social or employment policy.
The Times legal editor, Frances Gibb, notes that “the ruling will disappoint those approaching 65 but hoping to avoid retirement because the recession has devalued their pensions”.
Original article: 24 September 2008:
UK laws on compulsory retirement age are compatible with EU equality requirements. In a major setback for the 260 cases waiting at an employment tribunal on the issue of unfair treatment due to being forced to retire at 65 and without compensation, Advocate-General Jan Marzak declared that discrimination on grounds of age can be “justified in the context of national law by a legitimate aim relating to employment policy and the labour market”.
Heyday, part of Age Concern and the campaigners responsible for bringing the case to Europe, claimed that “denying people work because of their date of birth is grossly unfair, and in these tough times we expect more people will need to carry on working into ‘retirement’ in order to make ends meet”.
Although the view of the Attorney-General is not binding, it is usually followed by the European judges who are expected to decide on the case before Christmas.
The decision may not be such a setback for older workers however, as the government have announced that they will be reviewing the effectiveness of retirement age in 2011 and that its long-term aim is to move away from a compulsory retirement age.
Frances Gibb, writing in the Times, recognizes that a victory for Age Concern (now unlikely) “could lead to a far-reaching change in domestic employment law, and a flood of compensation actions in addition to the 260 now pending”.