The recent European Court of Justice decision in the German case of Fuchs v Land Hessen is, I think, a further example of the European Court apparently adopting a less stringent approach than the UK courts in respect of the issue of justifying compulsory retirement ages.
The case itself concerned a German law requiring state prosecutors to retire at 65. It was hoped that the decision would offer guidance on the issue of justification of a retirement age, and in particular on whether saving costs is a legitimate justification for employers having a compulsory retirement age. Unfortunately the ECJ has missed the opportunity to do so by choosing to avoid dealing with this point.
On the other hand the ECJ has added to the existing aims which can justify an enforced retirement age.
In this regard they indicated that where an employer has in place a required retirement age in order to avoid disputes over older workers' fitness to work, this can be justifiable. In addition, they indicated that an aim of encouraging a younger workforce can also now justify setting a compulsory retirement age.
Employers who seek to justify compulsory retirement are likely to welcome the less stringent approach the court appears to have adopted and can take guidance from the ECJ’s decision on the issue of justification. It will be interesting though to see how the UK Employment Tribunals interpret this decision.
It should also be noted that the decision relates to a specific German law which addresses the public sector and so its wider impact is unclear.