Partner’s retirement age of 65 was justified

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In the long-running saga of Mr Seldon and law firm Clarkson, Wright & Jakes, the Employment Tribunal has concluded that a mandatory retirement age of 65 for the partners at the firm was a proportionate means of achieving the legitimate aims of retaining associates and facilitating workforce planning. The Employment Tribunal held that a retirement age of 65 fell within the narrow range of possible retirement ages that could have achieved these aims (Seldon v Clarkson, Wright & Jakes).

Mr Seldon was a partner at Clarkson, Wright & Jakes. He was compulsorily retired at the end of year in which he was 65 – this was the mandatory retirement age set out in the partnership deed. Mr Seldon wished to keep working for the firm after this date but his proposal was rejected. Although the default retirement age (DRA) of 65 was in force at the relevant time, it did not apply to partners and so this decision is significant in that it establishes the principles that can be applied to the compulsory retirement of employees.

Mr Seldon issued proceedings alleging direct age discrimination under the predecessor to the Equality Act 2010. Unlike other forms of direct discrimination, direct age discrimination is capable of ‘objective justification’ (i.e. the discrimination can be justified by showing that it was a ‘proportionate’ means of achieving a ‘legitimate’ aim)…

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