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Supreme Court Judgement on Age Discrimination

Published on 25 April 2012 11:00 AM

Groundbreaking Supreme Court Judgement on Age Discrimination

The Supreme Court this morning issued groundbreaking new principles on age discrimination in the workplace in its long-awaited ruling in the case of Seldon v Clarkson Wright and Jakes.

The case revolved around Leslie Seldon, a partner in a solicitors firm who was forced to retire when he reached the age of 65 in December 2006. He took his case to an employment tribunal, the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal and, after losing in all three, finally the Supreme Court.

While the ruling sends Mr Seldon's case back to an Employment Tribunal for re-examination, the court's unanimous ruling has established new ground rules which will shape the way employers can behave towards older employees.

These are:

  • Stereotypes in which age is used as a proxy for continuing competency and capability 'no longer hold good (if they ever did ) in times of increasing longevity where there are benefits both to individuals and to wider society if people continue to work for as long as they can. Put simply, the younger generations need the older ones to continue to be self-supporting for as long as possible. So we should put such stereotypical assumptions out of our minds.' - Baroness Hale.
  • Performance management: The argument currently used by many employers that it would be undignified for older workers to go through any kind of management scrutiny, thereby avoiding supposed humiliation, is not legitimate if the business already has performance management measures in place.
  • Despite the abolition of the default retirement age, employers can currently still objectively justify retiring older workers because of their age alone as happened in the Seldon case. All businesses will now have to give careful consideration to what if any mandatory retirement rules can be justified.

Commenting on the ruling, Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General of Age UK said:

'This is a wake up call to employers that age discrimination in the workplace is no longer legally acceptable and that negative ageist stereotypes are out of date.

'This judgement makes it clear it will be very difficult to justify forced retirement on grounds of age alone.

'We are delighted that the Supreme Court has recognized the important contribution of older workers and has sent this message to the UK government and business.'


Media contact: Fiona Callister
Telephone: 0203 033 1439
Out of hours: 07071243243

Notes to editors

Age UK
For media enquiries relating to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland please contact the appropriate national office: Age Scotland on 0131 668 8055, Age Cymru on 029 2043 1562 and Age NI on 028 9024 5729.

About Age UK: Age UK is the new force combining Age Concern and Help the Aged, dedicated to improving later life.

We provide free information, advice and support to over six million people; commercial products and services to well over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and well being, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle.

We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI (together the Age UK Family), our local Age UK partners in England and local Age Concerns. We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.

Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they have formed the Age UK Group ("we").  Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity's trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity).

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Last updated: Oct 20 2023

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