This article responds to the case of Seldon v Clarkson Wright and Jakes  All ER (D) 121 (summary available on 'Today's Cases' in the 'Cases' tab of Lexis library) in the UK Supreme Court, which ruled that employers can implement a compulsory retirement age for their employees if they are able to objectively justify the age of retirement and if the retirement policy is a 'proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim'.
The current position under statute is governed by the Employment Equality (Repeal of Retirement Age Provisions) Regulations 2011 (SI 2011/1069), which abolished the default retirement age of 65. This means that all employees have the right to continue working past the age of 65. Under s. 5 of the Equality Act 2010, 'age' is a 'protected characteristic', and under s.13 of this Act an employer commits 'direct discrimination' if they treat an employee less favourably because of a protected characteristic.
The difference between direct discrimination regarding age and most other forms of direct discrimination is that the former can be objectively justified. The ruling in Seldon has not created this caveat to age discrimination, but it has helped to define what the courts will take into account when considering whether the imposition of a retirement age is justified. Some of the considerations included sharing work out among younger generations and preserving the dignity of older employees.
Essentially the matter resolves on the circumstances of each case, so the case does not set out a definite ruling allowing employers to impose a default retirement age. However, it does help to clarify the position of this very recent development in the law (default retirement at 65 being abolished in October 2011) in setting out what the UK Supreme Court regards as important considerations to take into account when making decisions.
I don't think the College of Law subscribe to the 'Today's Cases' feature on the standard student login. However, you can access it by clicking on the 'Cases' tab on the homepage of Lexis library, then click on the drop-down box next to 'Judgement date' and select today's date (25th April). Then scroll down until you find Seldon v Clarkson Wright and Jakes.