The Workplace Relations Commission (“WRC”) has recently awarded a complainant €50,000 on the basis that her employer discriminated against her on the grounds of age.

This landmark decision highlights the issue of age discrimination and retirement ages for employers who should consider the following:

  1. Whilst there is no statutory retirement age in Ireland, many, but not all, employment contracts have a compulsory retirement age. Employment contracts which contain a retirement age must be objectively justifiable and should be properly considered by the employer.
  2. Where an employer has a retirement policy, it must be clearly stated and operated equally across the organisation.

The employer’s defence encountered difficulties on these points. The Adjudicator could find no evidence to support the claim that the company had clearly set out the retirement age in either the contract of employment or the staff manual. Instead there was actually reference to employees working after the normal retirement age in their manual and also provided for fixed term contracts for those 65 years and older. Other people were engaged on independent contractor contracts for the company, but were allowed to continue working beyond the age of 65.

There are 42 days to appeal the Adjudicator’s decision. Nonetheless, the case emphasises the issues around aging workforces and the related policies which employers should have in place. This decision also refers to the Code of Practice on Longer Working as discussed in our previous blog here.