In Seldon v Clarkson Wright & Jakes (ET/1100275/07), the Employment Tribunal held that a compulsory retirement age of 65 was not in breach of the age discrimination legislation as it was a proportionate means of achieving legitimate aims, and was therefore justified. 

In May 2012, we reported the Supreme Court's decision that a law firm's aims in retiring one of its partners (Mr Seldon) at the age of 65 were legitimate (http://www.faegrebd.com/18465). In summary, the aims were to (i) retain associates, (b) plan for the future of the partnership, and (c) contribute to a supportive workplace. The Supreme Court remitted to the Tribunal the question of whether the chosen age of 65 was a proportionate means of achieving these aims.

The Tribunal considered that a compulsory retirement age could only be a means of achieving the firm's aims if it fell within a narrow range of ages (e.g. 64 to 66) as only then could the necessary balance between the needs of the firm, its partners and associates be struck.  In deciding whether the retirement age of 65 was proportionate, the Tribunal took into account a number of factors including that (a) all the partners, including Mr Seldon, had consented to the compulsory retirement age of 65, and (b) at the time of Mr Seldon's retirement in 2006, the UK provided for a default retirement age and a state pension age for men of 65.

This decision is good news for employers but it does not mean that a compulsory retirement age will always be lawful.  Whether it is will depend on the facts of each case and, in this case, the Tribunal took into account social policy and demographics in 2006.  The outcome might have been different if Mr Seldon had been retired today.