Friday, October 19, 2007

United Kingdom: European Court Decision Seen as Supporting Mandatory Retirement Law

A number of United Kingdom lawyers, reacting to the European Court of Justice decision upholding Spain's manatatory retirement law, believe the decision suggests that a challenge to the UK law will also fail. Thus, for example, a story in Personnel Today quotes Rachel Dineley, employment partner at law firm Beachcroft, as saying:
"While Heyday may persist with its challenge regardless of this development, employers can take comfort from what is clearly a sound and sensible view.

"Conversely, employees who had contemplated challenging their employer's decision to require them to retire on reaching age 65 may reluctantly accept the decision, and recognise that any challenge through the Employment Tribunal is very probably futile."
Similarly, in an article for THe Times, Michael Herman quotes James Baker, a solicitor at Macfarlanes, as saying: “The court has clearly accepted that mandatory retirement ages are discriminatory but that they can be justified as in this case.”

However, in a story in Clickdocs, quotes Juliet Carp, an employment solicitor with Speechly Bircham LLP, as saying:
"At first sight, the ECJ's decision seems likely to disappoint older workers - and delight many employers.

"Although the judges in Palacios made it clear that a wide discretion is offered to member states, it is still possible that the ECJ might not accept the British policy objectives as a legitimate excuse for age discrimination."
In addition, Gordon Lishman, Director General at Age Concern, has announced that, while disappointed that the the Palacios case did not succeed, Age Concern still believes "it is discriminatory for an individual to be made to retire on the grounds of their age and against their will," and that the Court decision will not set back the legal case that Heyday, supported by Age Concern, is bringing to the Court. "There are significant distinctions between the Heyday case and the case of Felix Palacios. The legal advice we are hearing is that Heyday should forge ahead with its case undeterred."

Sources: Personnel Today "European Court of Justice signals UK's mandatory retirement age will survive Heyday challenge" (October 16, 2007); The Times "EU ruling a blow to workers over 65" (October 17, 2007); Clickdocs "Compulsory retirement not prohibited, says ECJ" (October 18, 2007); Age Concern News Release (October 17, 2007)

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