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When age discrimination may be lawful

PLEASE NOTE: Information in this article is correct at the time of publication, please contact DFA Law for current advice on older articles.

The Supreme Court has held that a law firm had identified legitimate aims (staff retention, workforce planning and dignity) that could potentially justify its compulsory retirement of a partner at the age of 65. The case will now return to the employment tribunal for it to consider whether the firm’s chosen retirement age was a proportionate means of achieving the aims identified.

Much of the initial commentary on this case suggests that the decision may make it easier for employers to force employees to retire without falling foul of age discrimination law. However, much of the court’s ruling should be seen as sounding a serious note of caution to employers seeking to justify compulsory retirement. The judgment states that “all businesses will now have to give careful consideration to what, if any, mandatory retirement rules can be justified”.

Our checklist highlights some examples of when a business may be able to justify treating employees differently because of their age.

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