Court must rule on age 'exception'
Published on 18 January 2012 11:00 AM
The Supreme Court has been asked to clarify a rule which allows bosses to 'justify' age discrimination.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) wants the court - the highest in the land - to look at an exception to laws banning age discrimination in the workplace. In London, a panel of justices is now hearing legal arguments about the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006.
The commission says the rule is an exception, through which employers can justify discriminating against people on the basis of their age providing they can show it is a 'proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim'.
In a landmark case, solicitor, Leslie Seldon, claims he was unfairly forced to retire at the age of 65 from the law firm, Clarkson Wright and Jakes, where he was a partner. The Supreme Court will examine whether the law firm's action was legitimate and justifiable. Its ruling could have wider implications for the Government's policy towards older workers.
EHRC legal director John Wadham said: 'Forced retirement ages have been abolished, but now lawyers and employers need to understand when age discrimination is 'justifiable' in terms of the law. People should be measured on what they can contribute in the workplace: age-related stereotypes about what people can or cannot do should not be a factor. It would not be tolerated if it was applied to any other form of discrimination.'
Age UK backed the EHRC initiative, saying the court should not undermine the Government's decision to get rid of mandatory retirement ages. Its charity director Michelle Mitchell said: 'The Supreme Court has an excellent opportunity to make it clear that forced retirement because of age is unacceptable and discriminatory. The Court must not undermine the Government's scrapping of the mandatory retirement age last year by allowing employers to continue forcing older workers out for no reason other than their age.'
Copyright Press Association 2012