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Hey Day case faces a major setback

A senior Advocate General has advised the European Court of Justice not to change current UK mandatory retirement laws. Although not binding, the Advocate General’s opinion is significant as he acts as a senior
legal advisor to the Court’s judges.

This is a big blow to Age concern charity Hey Day, as well as other age discrimination campaigners. Hey day had originally brought a legal challenge to the European Court of Justice arguing current UK mandatory retirement at age 65 conflicted with the EU’s Equal treatment directive.

Currently those facing mandatory retirement can request postponement. However employers are not obliged to grant it. Campaigners fear with an economic down turn imminent some employers may choose balancing the books ahead of fair employment policies.

Tribunals in the UK have been advised to suspend rulings on cases involving mandatory retirement until the outcome of the test case is heard. Some 260 people in Britain are awaiting the decision.

If Heyday lose the case all is not lost, legal experts have argued that the government would still have to justify the inclusion of a default retirement age due its current equality commitments.

Gordon Lishman, Director General of Age Concern said:

“This is a set back, but it is not a disaster. Not having the Advocate General’s support for our case is disappointing for us and for the millions of older workers in the UK.

“The Advocate General's opinion confirms that the EU Directive requires age discrimination to be justified.  It’s now up to the UK government to prove to the High Court that their social and employment policies are important enough to justify kicking people out of work at 65. Until then, older workers face more uncertainty about their right to work.

UK, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:

'It makes no sense that we have laws in the UK that aim to remove age discrimination, but include a get-out clause for employers who want to kick people out when they reach 65, regardless of whether or not they are doing their job well.'

A decision on the case is expected in December and it seems the Hey day challenge effort may not now lead to the immediate scrapping of the default retirement that was once hoped. However it looks as if campaigners have already diversified their strategy, and will now also go down the root of lobbying the government in their continuing attempts to remove current mandatory retirement laws.

Ends

posted by

Dizali Mentha
Associate Publisher

 

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