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Commission reiterates call for retirement age to be abolished following high court ruling

The Commission has renewed its call on the Government to scrap the Default Retirement Age (DRA), following a high court ruling today.

Although the judge in the case, in which the Commission intervened, ruled that the DRA was lawful when first introduced he also stated that there is now a ‘compelling’ case for setting the age higher than 65.

The Commission is asking the Government abolish the DRA using the Equality Bill, which is soon to be debated in the House of Lords, rather than wait until a review of the policy next year.

Mr Justice Blake recognised the ‘very substantial weight’ of the arguments put forward by the Commission and Age UK to stop people being forced out of work at 65.

In explaining his ruling he said he took into account the Government’s move to bring forward a review of DRA from 2011 to 2010. This review will consider whether a Default Retirement Age is still “appropriate and necessary”.

He also observed that a DRA would be unlikely to be lawful if it was introduced in 2009 because of the state of the economy. However, his decision to allow a DRA of 65 was based on the circumstances and evidence available three years ago when it was introduced.

Employers do not need to have a normal retirement age policy as the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations do not make it compulsory. Employees have the right to ask to carry on working beyond the age of 65 even if their employer has a normal retirement age in place.

Hundreds of retirement-related Employment Tribunal cases, which have been on hold awaiting the outcome of this legal challenge, can now move forward. The Employment Tribunal will have to take into account the Judge's observations on the legality of a DRA of 65 in 2009 when considering these cases

John Wadham, Legal Group Director for the Commission, said:

'The number of older employees is increasing and the law should support those who wish to carry on working and making an economic contribution. Many employers have said they think that having a mandatory retirement age is more trouble than it’s worth.

'The judge has sent out a strong signal that it is only a matter of time before the default retirement age of 65 is removed, and we will consider what action we could take next. The Government’s promised review has already been brought forward from 2011 to 2010. It could act sooner to strike the DRA out of the rule books using the Equality Bill.'

There are 1.4 million people working past state pension age (65 for men, 60 for women), according to the most recent Labour Market figures from the Office of National Statistics. This is up from 1.2 million people the year before.

The number of people in retirement has been falling steadily since October last year, from 608,000 to 567,000, which could mean 40,000 people have gone back to work to top up their pensions.

Research by The Age Employment Network (TAEN) found that one in three employers using a mandatory retirement age thought that it can lead to a loss of valuable knowledge and talent.

One in four organisations without a normal retirement age policy said it was a 'positive step' and that 'it helped maintain valuable skills and their organisation’s customer-facing image and reputation'.

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