Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Advocate General Opinion Supports U.K.'s Mandatory Retirement Law at European Court of Justice

Jan Marzak, the Advocate-General for the European Court of Justice, has issued an opinion recommending that the Court uphold the United Kingdom's law taht bans discrimination on the ground of age but excludes pensioners, who can be dismissed at 65 without redundancy payments, or at the employer's mandatory retirement age if it is above 65. According to Marzak:
A rule such as that at issue in the main proceedings, which permits employers to dismiss employees aged 65 or over if the reason for dismissal is retirement, can in principle be justified under Article 6(1) of Directive 2000/78 if that rule is objectively and reasonably justified in the context of national law by a legitimate aim relating to employment policy and the labour market and it is not apparent that the means put in place to achieve that aim of public interest are inappropriate and unnecessary for the purpose.
According to Gordon Lishman, director general of Age Concern, one of whose member organizations--Heyday--brought the case to set aside the law, "This is a set back, but it is not a disaster." While Age Concern would have preferred to have the Advocate General’s support, his "opinion confirms that the EU Directive requires age discrimination to be justified. It’s now up to the UK government to prove to the High Court that their social and employment policies are important enough to justify kicking people out of work at 65."

Sources: The Times "Setback in battle against compulsory retirement age" (September 24, 2008); Personnel Today "Heyday age discrimination ruling: what the employment lawyers and experts say" (September 23, 2008); Age Concern Press Release (September 23, 2008); Employers Forum on Age Press Release (September 23, 2008)

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