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17 July 2014

Retirement age was objectively justified

In this long-running case, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has upheld the decision that a compulsory retirement age of 65 was objectively justified.

Mr Seldon was a partner in a law firm who was compulsorily retired at the age of 65 back in 2006.  His claim for unlawful age discrimination eventually reached the Supreme Court in 2012, at which it was held that the mandatory retirement age achieved the legitimate objectives of workforce planning and staff retention.

The case was then remitted to a further employment tribunal to consider whether the chosen age of 65 was a proportionate means of achieving the legitimate objectives. In other words, could a higher age have achieved the same objectives with a less discriminatory impact?

Last year, the employment tribunal accepted that 65 was a proportionate age.

Mr Seldon, clearly not a man to be easily defeated, appealed this decision to the EAT for the second time.

Decision

The EAT has once again dismissed the appeal and confirmed the tribunal’s decision that compulsory retirement at 65 was objectively justified.  The fact that it might have identified a slightly higher age as being proportionate (and therefore justified), did not mean that the tribunal had made an error of law.

Comment

It is important to bear in mind that this case was decided with reference to the law as it stood at the date of Mr Seldon’s retirement in 2006.  At that time, the compulsory retirement age of 65 was still in place for employees, and this is likely to have influenced the original decision that it was an objectively justifiable age for a partner to be forced to retire.  A tribunal would not necessarily reach the same decision now that the compulsory retirement age for employees has been removed.

A copy of the EAT judgment is available here.