Mr Seldon was a partner in a firm of solicitors. He brought a claim of age discrimination against them when he was forced to retire at age 65 under the partnership`s mandatory rules.
Last year, the Supreme Court sent his claim back to the employment tribunal. They considered a number of issues relating to justification (the main one being whether 65 was an appropriate age for mandatory retirement, or whether another age such as 68 or 70 should have been adopted).
The employment tribunal this week found in favour of the solicitors’ firm. The tribunal held that retention and planning were legitimate aims. In this case, it was accepted that there was a need to weigh up the interests of the partners in the firm with the interests of its associates seeking to become partners, with the consequent risk of retention issues in keeping associates in the firm. Importantly, it held that a mandatory retirement of 65 was a proportionate means of achieving those aims. The tribunal also paid particular regard to the fact that the retirement age had been agreed by the partners in the partnership deed, with each having bargaining power.
However, this case does not mean that employers can justify a mandatory retirement age of 65. First, justification will always depend on fact-sensitive matters relating to the particular employer. Second, this case was decided based on social policy and demographics in 2006, before the abolition of the national retirement age. The issue of working beyond 65 has moved on in the last seven years, and the tribunal specifically stated that the case might be decided differently on facts arising today.