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Compulsory retirement

BY Greg Fletcher
Employment Law & HR
BG Purple

An Employment Tribunal has handed down its judgment in the long running case of Seldon v Clarkson Wright & Jakes.  Mr Seldon was a partner with a law firm. 

He was forced to retire at 65 under the partnership rules and challenged his dismissal on the grounds of age HR.  His claim went all the way to the Supreme Court who found that the firm could potentially justify a retirement age.  In order to do so however, they would have to be able to identify an aim or aims that are not only about business issues such as increased competitiveness or reduced cost, but also point to broader ‘social policy’ considerations such as inter-generational fairness or preserving the dignity of older workers.  The case was remitted to the employment tribunal to decide if, in this case, the employer was able to justify the retirement age. 

The Tribunal found in favour of the employer. In its decision, it found that retention and planning were legitimate aims and a mandatory retirement age was a proportionate means of achieving these aims. 

Employers should not however take this decision as meaning that retirement ages will be easy to justify.  This case related to a partnership arrangement with its own particular facets and, with increasing numbers of older workers in the workplace, views on compulsory retirement have moved on since Mr Seldon raised his claim.  Employers who are seeking to introduce a mandatory retirement age would be well advised to take legal advice before seeking to implement any such scheme.

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