Saturday, February 17, 2007

European Court Upholds Collectively-Bargained Mandatory Retirement Age

Jan Mazak, an Advocate-General of the European Court of Justice, has rendered an opinion that European law allows individual countries to pass legislation permitting mandatory retirement ages. Thus, a provision in the Spain's discrimination laws that effectively allows employers to force staff to retire at 65 is compatible with European law.

The dispute was brought by FĂ©lix Palacios de la Villa against Cortefiel Servicios SA, in which Mr Palacios claims that his dismissal on the ground that he had attained the compulsory retirement age laid down in a collective agreement was unlawful. However, the Advocae-General ruled that the European principle of non-discrimination on grounds of age does not preclude a national law pursuant to which compulsory retirement clauses contained in collective agreements are lawful, where such clauses provide as sole requirements that workers must have reached normal retirement age and must have fulfilled the conditions set out in the social security legislation of the Member State concerned for entitlement to draw a retirement pension under the relevant contribution regime.

This decision particulary attracted attention in the United Kingdom.
Although [the] case concerns collective employment agreements, which are much less common in the UK than elsewhere in Europe, lawyers said that the legal opinion also applies to individual contracts and so the case is directly relevant to British workers.

James Baker, an employment lawyer at Macfarlanes, said: “This opinion will disappoint thousands of workers in the UK who are pinning their hopes on a legal challenge to the mandatory retirement age.
Source: European Court of Justice Opinion of Advocate General C-411/05 Palacios de la Villa (February 15, 2007)

Other References: The Times of London "Blow for workers as European court says mandatory retirement is lawful" (February 15, 2007)

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