As clients will be aware, the government has abolished the default retirement age with effect from 1 October 2011. Under the new regime, termination of employment by compulsory retirement at a particular age will be unlawful age discrimination and unfair dismissal, unless the employer (i) can objectively justify the retirement age and its application to the individual, and (ii) follows a fair procedure, which is likely to require proper consideration of any request from the employee to continue working. The use of a maximum recruitment age will also need to be objectively justified.

The difficulty and uncertainty of attempting to justify the continued use of compulsory retirement has led many employers to decide not to try. However, it is not enough simply to announce this to the workforce: in addition to changes to contractual documentation, employers will need to consider the impact on, and probably adjust, various benefits policies, performance management systems, future planning processes and general workplace culture.