The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 which make discrimination on the grounds of age unlawful provide for a default retirement age of 65. Subject to complying with certain procedures, employers may therefore lawfully dismiss employees aged 65 or more by reason of retirement. ‘Heyday’, an arm of Age Concern, are currently awaiting a judicial review of the legality of the Regulations on the basis that the UK, in allowing employees to be lawfully retired at age 65, has not fully implemented the Equal Treatment Directive.
In the recent case of Johns v Solent SD Ltd, Mrs Johns claimed unfair dismissal and age discrimination on the grounds that she had been retired at the age of 65. She requested that her claim be stayed pending the outcome of the Heyday judicial review. The employment tribunal refused to grant a stay and struck out her claim on the basis that it had little prospect of success. The tribunal in its decision referred to the Advocate General's opinion in the Palacios case, which stated that national laws providing compulsory retirement ages were permissible.
Effect on employers
This case is an important one for employers. Although it is only a decision of the employment tribunal, and therefore not binding, it is persuasive evidence that if employers follow the retirement provisions carefully, employees should not be able to proceed with a claim based on a retirement age of 65.