Default Retirement Age Abolished

Any British employee celebrating their 65th Birthday after the 1st October 2011 will be protected by new rules that have come into force preventing forced retirement under what was known as the Default Retirement Age (DRA). Previously employers could without justification retire employees when they reached age 65 under the DRA.  

The government announced the new measures citing that people are living longer and are healthier, removing the requirement for a DRA. A transitional period had been in place since April 6th 2011 to help employers prepare for the change, which ended on October 1st 2011
Now if an employer wishes to operate a compulsory retirement age they will need to satisfy the new laws requiring that such a policy can be objectively justified. For example, a construction the employer might have a case for setting a maximum age for their on-site workers for health and safety reasons.  An employer will need to provide real evidence to support their claim of objective justification in the event their policy is challenged. Simply saying by having a Normal Retirement Age they will meet a business need is not enough, they must be able to show this is true.
Age equality campaigners are ecstatic having lobbied hard for the past decade to remove the DRA which many campaigners viewed as blatant age discrimination. Age UK, one of many charities in the forefront of campaigning for its removal, almost succeeded with a test case questioning the validity of the DRA, “The Hey Day Challenge”. The case made it all the way to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) almost on the verge of setting a ground breaking legal precedent making the DRA a form of age discrimination. However the ECJ ruled against scrapping it in May 2009 a major blow at the time, but was closely followed by the government’s announcement that scrapping the DRA was still being considered. Subsequently the plans for the removal of the DRA were announced by the Coalition Government.
Speaking about the eventual removal of the DRA, Age UK's Charity Director, Michelle Mitchell, commented: 'the end of the Default Retirement Age is a victory for older workers who for too long have been consigned to the scrapheap for no reason other than prejudice.


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