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Lawyer loses key discrimination claim

Lawyer loses key discrimination claim

Five Supreme Court Justices have unanimously dismissed an appeal by a lawyer who was forced to retire at 65.

Leslie Seldon had already lost at the Court of Appeal where he claimed Kent firm Clarkson Wright & Jakes had treated him unfairly when he was compulsorily retired. Mr Seldon was a partner at the firm and claimed he had been a victim of age discrimination.

The Supreme Court Justices remitted his case back to the Employment Tribunal “to consider whether the choice of a mandatory age of 65 was a proportionate means of achieving the legitimate aims of the partnership”. But ultimately, they unanimously dismissed his appeal.

Erica Humphrey, solicitor in IBB Solicitor’s employment team, said:

“The long-awaited judgment is out. The Supreme Court dismissed Mr Seldon’s appeal which confirms that, following the abolition of the default retirement age, employers are entitled to implement their own retirement ages.

“This is on the proviso that they are justifiable, and in this case, the Supreme Court accepted that the following reasons put forward by the law firm were sufficient to justify the retirement age:

  1. That removing partners gives associates an opportunity of partnership within a reasonable time and provides an incentive for them to stay with the firm;
  2. That having a defined date for removing partners allows for workforce planning; and 3. That having a retirement age maintains the dignity of the partners by avoiding dismissal by way of performance management proceedings.

“Employers will no doubt still be cautious about implementing their own retirement ages until there have been some further cases on what reasons the Tribunals will and will not accept as sufficient justification. But, for the time being, employers can take some comfort knowing that they can manage their workforce by imposing their own retirement age, provided that it is justified.

“It is also worth noting that the case will be discussed further. The case has been submitted back to the Employment Tribunal who have been asked to determine whether 65 was the correct age to retire Mr Seldon in order to achieve its aims.”

Our Employment team provides advice on the employment aspects of all major business decisions. For advice, contact a member of the team, call us on 08456 381 381 or email enquiries@ibblaw.co.uk.