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Retirement age case gets heard


The case against the UK’s implementation of European anti-age discrimination legislation has gone before the European Court of Justice.

If this case goes against the government, it would mean an overhaul of UK law - which currently states that older workers have the right to ask to continue beyond 65 but the employer has no obligation to allow it.

The case has been brought by Heyday, a sister organisation of Age Concern. There are currently some 260 forced retirement cases making their way through the tribunals and all have been stayed until the outcome of the Heyday case is known.

The next stage is the publication of the advocate-general’s opinion. This will be on 23 September and the court decision is expected before the end of the year. Usually, the court follows the advocate-general’s opinion.

Yvonne Gallagher, head of employment at the business law firm LG, said: "The UK's current implementation does not give older workers any rights to continue, only to ask and be considered - and this case will turn on what is being held as discriminating against older workers.

"The UK legislation contains a number of exceptions which effectively undermine the position of older workers, such as the fact that workers who are within 6 months of age 65 or older are excluded from protection from discrimination in recruitment processes.

"However my feeling is that the UK government's position could be upheld because in a not dissimilar previous case involving an older worker in Spain the European Court approved similar exemptions introduced by the Spanish government."

Lawyers for Heyday argue there are distinct differences between the Heyday case and the Spanish case.

Colin Thompson, regional director of Mature MD, said: “No amount of new legislation will alter attitudes among those who believe that executives suddenly become brain dead on reaching the age of 50.

“Fortunately, canny folk at private equity and venture capital companies have realised the value of bringing in some grey hair around the boardroom table of companies that are disappointing their shareholders. Plus, SME companies are taking on board successful/skilled and experienced people who raise the `bottom-line`.

“They have realised that it's worth capitalising on 30 years of quality experience by executives who have made their mistakes at somebody else's expense. More power to their elbow!”

The issue of training for older workers was considered by TrainingZone earlier this year. You can find the article here.


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