An advocate-general at the European Court of Justice has backed the British law, which since 2006 has allowed employers to ‘compel' workers to retire at 65. This decision is not binding, but may well have an influence on the judges' final verdict, due before Christmas. So it looks like people may be forced to pack up when the boss says so.
Age Concern took its case to Europe claiming the UK law was both discriminatory and against European legislation - an action prompted by a survey of 60,000 people, in which 80% claimed the British rules were unfair. Around 260 people in Britain currently have cases at employment tribunals which depend on Europe's decision - they claim to have been unfairly treated and are worse off because they had to retire at 65.
Age Concern director Ailsa Olgive said that the current rules were ‘grossly unfair' and ‘costing good workers their jobs'. She certainly seems to have a point. It hardly seems right to be forcing willing workers out of their jobs, especially at a time when fuel and food bills are going through the roof. And as the population ages, more of us will have a long life ahead once we start collecting the pension.
The good news is that most employers seem to have discovered the benefits of keeping people on themselves. Age Concern reckons two-thirds of UK employers no longer operate a fixed retirement age and 1.2m people are carrying on work beyond the normal retirement ages of 60 and 65. They are apparently the fastest growing group of workers in the UK. The CBI, meanwhile, maintains that a normal retirement age of 65 is an essential management tool. But it added that employees can ask to work beyond that age, and that employers have a duty to consider these requests. In other words, leave it up to them to sort out.