July 3, 2008

Campaign in Court to End Forced Retirement at Age 65

By Gerri Peev Political Correspondent

WORKERS could no longer be forced to retire at 65 if anti-age discrimination campaigners get their way in a European court.

Forcing employees who reach 65 to retire if they wish to keep working breaches equality laws, insist lawyers for Heyday, a group connected to Age Concern.

Their case, before the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, centres on claims that the UK Employment Equality (Age) Regulations are contrary to an EU directive which bans discrimination on the grounds of age.

David Manion, chief executive of Age Concern Scotland, said it was "ridiculous" for a person's skills and knowledge to be thrown away as soon as they reached 65.

He said: "Our right to work should not be based on our age, but rather our knowledge, skills and motivation.

"The government's decision to allow employers to sack workers at 65 contradicts its aim of encouraging longer working lives."

Workers can be dismissed in the UK at 65 or older, according to a company's compulsory retirement age, without redundancy payments. Although staff have the right to ask to stay on, firms do not have to agree.

The government is fighting the case, claiming its employment policy is a matter for national rules rather than an EU directive.

A spokeswoman for the equalities unit in the Cabinet Office said the department hoped it would eventually reach a position where the compulsory retirement age was scrapped.

The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform has defended the right of companies to use a default retirement age to help them "plan their workforce".

A spokeswoman said: "Our long-term aim is to move away from compulsory retirement, but a culture change is not possible overnight.

"However, many employers realise the value of recruiting, training and retaining older staff and introducing more flexible working practices."

A government review is under way on the default retirement age, but is not due to report until 2011.

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