Age Concern brought a legal challenge, arguing that this was not permissible under EU law. The recent judgment of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the case made clear that the issue is for the UK courts to decide. The High Court must now assess whether the retirement rules are justified as a means of achieving legitimate social policy aims. The ECJ warned that the UK Government faces a high burden of proof and that 'mere generalisations' about why mandatory retirement is desirable will not do. The outcome is uncertain and is sure to be appealed, resulting in a lengthy period of limbo. Employers can continue to operate compulsory retirement policies, albeit at risk of tribunal claims that may ultimately succeed. The Government is committed to reviewing the retirement law in 2011. Increased life expectancy, lower birth rates and declining pension pots all point towards the extinction of mandatory retirement ages sooner or later.
Michael Burd and James Davies, Lewis Silkin LLP solicitors - e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org