Compulsory retirement ages: employers can draw a line in the sand

By Michal Stein

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has heard the second appeal in the case of Seldon v Clarkson Wright & Jakes. This case focuses on the issue of justifying a compulsory retirement age and, as the EAT said, has ‘a long history’.

As you may recall, to justify a compulsory retirement age, an employer must show that its chosen retirement age amounts to ‘a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’. Proportionality often requires a ‘balancing exercise’ between the importance of the employer’s legitimate aims and the extent and impact of the discriminatory effect on the employee. The thrust of Mr Seldon’s argument (in this particular part of his lengthy litigation) was that retirement at 65 could not be justified, because the firm’s legitimate aims could also have been achieved by a retirement age of 66 (i.e. retirement at 65 was not proportionate).

Blackstone Chambers, which had counsels acting in the case, report that the EAT disagreed. Approving the tribunal’s judgment on this issue, the EAT held that ‘the proper analysis was to consider whether the chosen retirement age was reasonably necessary to achieve the aims, given the realities of setting a bright-line date’…

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