Seldon Judgment: Compulsory Retirement

One of the most significant judgments on age discrimination was handed down on 25 April 2012 by the Supreme Court.  However, critics warn that the judgment may have left the door open for businesses to set their own retirement age for staff.

The case involved a former law firm partner who brought a claim of age discrimination after he was forced to retire at the age of 65.  Mr Seldon was a partner rather than an employee, therefore the default retirement age formerly permitting forced retirement of employees did not apply to him.

The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and sent one issue back to the Tribunal for them to consider.   The judgment held that a degree of flexibility is available to employers in relation to their legitimate aims for justifying direct age discrimination providing the aims are of a public interest nature and consistent with the state’s social policy aims.  However, such aims must stand up to scrutiny and an employer must be able to show that they are legitimate.

The case is remitted back to the Employment Tribunal to consider whether the choice of a mandatory retirement age of 65 was a proportionate means of achieving the legitimate aims of the partnership.

The judgment can be read at:

http://www.supremecourt.gov.uk/docs/UKSC_2010_0201_Judgment.pdf

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