23/09/2008

Setback To Retirement Age Challenge

A European court adviser has rejected a challenge by campaigners for age equality to banish the compulsory retirement age in the UK.

An Advocate-General at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg backed current UK rules however the decision is not binding.

Age Concern have been challenging UK laws, since 2006 that have allowed employers to compel workers to retire at 65.

Around 260 cases in the UK are on hold in tribunals awaiting the outcome of the Age Concern test case, and thousands more claims could follow from pensioners forced to retire against their will.

Age Concern's claim that compelling people to stop work at or after 65 without compensation breaches the EU's Equal Treatment Directive, which bans employment discrimination on grounds of, amongst other things, age.

UK Regulations, introduced in 2006, ban discrimination on grounds of age, but excludes pensioners, who can be dismissed at 65 without redundancy payments, or at the employer's mandatory retirement age if it is above 65.
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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.

"Millions of older workers in the EU will be fuming that the Advocate General thinks ageism counts for less than other forms of discrimination. This is not a minority issue. In the UK ageism is already the most commonly experienced form of prejudice and more than a million people are already working past state pension age."

Ailsa Olgive, director of Heyday, said: "Denying people work because of their date of birth is grossly unfair, and in these tough times we expect more people will need to carry on working into 'retirement' in order to make ends meet."

(GK/JM)

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