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Default retirement age: Gone but not forgotten
Under the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 (the "Age Regulations"), it was lawful for an employer to dismiss an employee aged 65 or over by reason of retirement, this was known as the default retirement age (DRA).
The DRA was removed from legislation on 6 April 2011, subject to transitional provisions to allow retirements that were already in progress to be completed.
Employers may discriminate on the grounds of age if they can objectively justify their action. This means that they may continue to use a compulsory retirement age after 6 April 2011 if they can demonstrate that it is a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”. This can be difficult to prove but, essentially, the legitimate aim (for example, facilitation of employment planning) must outweigh the overall aim of preventing discrimination.
Encouragingly, in the Seldon case, the Court of Appeal has decided that a partnership’s policy of compulsory retirement at age 65 was objectively justified. Although, of course, this was against a backdrop of the DRA of 65.
Mr Seldon's appeal was heard by the Supreme Court in early 2012. We are awaiting the decision.