Case law update: employment tribunal finds that setting a compulsory retirement age is not age discriminatory in certain circumstances

On 28 May 2013, an employment tribunal (ET) delivered its judgment in the long-running but important age discrimination case of Seldon v Clarkson Wright and Jakes (a partnership) (CWJ). Mr Seldon was a partner in the law firm CWJ and, under the terms of its partnership deed, was forced to retire on 31 December 2006 following his 65th birthday (which was in January 2006). During 2007, Mr Seldon brought an ET claim alleging that this ‘forced’ retirement at age 65 was direct age discrimination and so unlawful. Under UK law, such treatment is not discriminatory if it can be shown that it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim (i.e. it is ‘objectively justified’).

The ET held that the imposition of Mr Seldon’s mandatory retirement age of 65 was a proportionate means of achieving certain aims put forward by CJW, which the ET also found to be legitimate. These aims were to retain staff, to enable workforce planning and to preserve the dignity of older staff who might otherwise have to be managed out. Following several unsuccessful appeals by Mr Seldon, the case reached the Supreme Court, which delivered its judgment in April 2012, upholding the earlier decision that CWJ’s aims identified above were legitimate in this context…

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