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Mon 30 Apr 2012

Landmark Ruling on age discrimination case

Landmark Ruling on age discrimination case

Age discrimination has been increasingly in the news and a welcome clarification from the Supreme Court, the highest Court in the land, has clarified when forced retirement is justified. This was not an employment situation involving an employer and an employee but one concerning a partnership where one partner objected to the retirement practices in the firm.

The case involved Leslie Seldon, a solicitor partner in a Kent law firm. The Court ruled that he was treated fairly when he was compulsorily retired at 65. Mr Seldon, who is now aged 71 is working as a notary and he ultimately appealed to this Court after being forced to retire by his firm based in Orpington, Kent.

The ruling sets out new guidance, making it clear that firms and companies can compel employees to retire for the purpose of career progression and what is termed “succession  planning”. That last term denotes a situation where in a business it is necessary for the older directors, partners or managers to leave to make way for younger ones. However, that is not to be considered a charter for age discrimination because such an approach is held to be unlawful by the Supreme Court where it cannot be justified as a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”. 

The Supreme Court has ordered the Employment Tribunal to consider whether the mandatory retirement age of 65 in the circumstances of the Kent law firm was “proportionate”.

There are still aspects to address in this important area of law but the ruling gives clarity in an area where confusion reigned and underlines the fact that it is wholly inappropriate to assume that once an individual employee reaches the age of 65 years, his competency is in question.

A further article will follow once there is further clarification either from the Employment Tribunal or in other relevant cases.

For further information on this or any other employment matter, please contact Keith Maynard or Paul Manski.

Keith Maynard                                  Paul Manski

Direct: 020 7644 7278                     Direct: 020 7644 6095       


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