Seldon -v- Clarkson Wright and Jakes (A Partnership) [2012] UKSC 16

Yesterday, the Supreme Court issued its judgment in the long awaited case of Seldon -v- Clarkson Wright and Jakes, confirming that a mandatory retirement age contained in the law firm's partnership deed could be objectively justified. After detailed consideration of European case law, the Supreme Court has confirmed that 'intergenerational fairness', such as sharing work opportunities fairly between the generations, and 'dignity', such as avoiding the need to dismiss older workers on the grounds of incapacity or underperformance, were legitimate aims which could objectively justify a mandatory retirement age.

The case has now been sent back to the Employment Tribunal to consider if the respondent's choice of 65 as the mandatory retirement age is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim of the partnership. So, the judgment leaves open the big question of whether the specific age of 65 in this case would be a justifiable retirement age.

The Supreme Court has warned that businesses must give careful consideration to their mandatory retirement policies and whether they can be justified. There were specific factors which applied in this particular case, which may not be relevant to every organisation. Employers should not take this decision as a licence to force staff to retire at a specific age. They should think about how they could justify a retirement age if they want to apply one.

Please click here for the full Court judgment.