Heyday ruling: It is legal to retire staff at 65

The High Court has ruled it is legal for employers to retire employees at the age of 65.

The long-awaited decision follows the challenge led by Age Concern and Help the Aged against the UK government’s default retirement age of 65.

Mr Justice Blake indicated an exempt retirement age at 65 was lawful back in 2006 when it was introduced, due to the prevailing circumstances and evidence available at the time. But he said it would not be likely to be lawful if it were introduced now because of the current economic conditions.

Good news

Jon Coley, employment partner at Pinsent Masons, said it was good news for employers, especially those who have been retiring employees at 65. “But this is only a short window of opportunity,” he said. “With the government looking to review the default retirement age (DRA) next year this is certainly not the last we will hear about this. The government has brought forward the review of the DRA and the smart money is on it extending the DRA or removing it completely as a vote winning tactic ahead of the next election.”

Rachel Dineley, head of the diversity and discrimination unit at law firm Beachcroft, commented: “Today’s decision confirms the UK Government has the flexibility to set a retirement age, and that issues such as
employment and training can be the basis for justifying dismissing such employees. Cases that were put on hold, pending this decision, will now be dismissed.”

Common sense

John Cridland, deputy director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, added: “This judgment is a vital victory for common sense, and it supports the approach that employers already take to retirement. Businesses do not want to lose good people, whatever their age.”


However, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) said it was disappointed with the ruling. CIPD diversity adviser, Dianah Worman said: “The High Court has missed a trick to resolve this issue once and for all. The government itself has admitted that the days of the DRA are numbered. It seems counter-intuitive to drag this decision out even further while thousands of older people will be forced out of work in an already difficult jobs market.”

Click here fore more news and features on employee benefits tax and legislation