At What Age Can My Employer Ask Me to Retire?

With the abolition in 2011 of the default retirement age, employers in England and Wales are no longer able to use the statutory retirement procedure to force out employees over the age of 65.

To do so would constitute age discrimination at work and also unfair dismissal, and if this has happened to you, you could bring a claim in an Employment Tribunal.

For most jobs there is no set retirement age, however, the law does allow employers to set a retirement age if certain conditions are met, but this is often very difficult to do.   

If you feel that you have been a victim of age discrimination at work, then it’s important to speak with an Employment Law Solicitor to see if you can make an Employment Tribunal claim.

For initial legal advice get in touch with our Employment Law Solicitors.

Call us on 0808 258 3531 or request a callback

Compulsory retirement was phased out with the introduction of the Employment Equality (Repeal of Retirement Age Provisions) Regulations 2011.

This brought an end to employers issuing retirement notices to staff upon reaching the age of 65, levelling the playing field for many people who would view themselves as fully capable of carrying out their job role, irrespective of their age.

Age Discrimination at Work

Age is one of the nine Protected Characteristics under the Equality Act 2010, giving employees and job applicant’s protection from discrimination due to age.

This also includes protection against unfair treatment against an employee or job applicant if they happen to be:

  • A different age or in a different age group to another job applicant or employee
  • Presumed to be or not to be within a particular age group
  • Connected with someone belonging to a particular age group

Retirement is Your Choice, Not Your Employers

Employers must adhere to the rules around retirement and retirement is certainly not something that can be forced upon you once you reach a certain age. In fact, the law makes it particularly difficult for an employer to set a retirement age.

An employer must not:

  • Raise or prompt a discussion about when an employee might retire
  • Ask an employee direct questions about when they might be planning to retire
  • Treat an employee differently or detrimentally because they want to retire
  • Suggest someone should retire before or during a dismissal process
  • Change an employee’s contract when they reach the state pension age

This does not mean, however, that an employer is completely prohibited from discussing the subject of retirement with you. If you choose to instigate the conversation, you are free to do so at any time, and the employer is within their legal right to discuss it with you, as long as it was you who raised the topic of discussion.

It is common during an appraisal process that an employer may bring up the topic of short-term, medium-term or long-term future plans with you, where the idea of retirement may come up in discussion. It must be clear, though, that you raised the topic of discussion, rather than having it put on you by your employer.

When Can an Employer Legally Set a Retirement Age?

Some professions do still carry a legal age limit.

Whilst difficult, an employer can justify asking you to retire at a certain age in some circumstances. Generally, an employer must prove at an Employment Tribunal that the decision must:

  • Meet the wider needs of society, such as giving young people the chance of employment
  • Creating a workforce of mixed age groups
  • Meeting the organisations business needs e.g. allowing a business to plan for recruitment

Few employers actually do this due to the legal difficulties. It can be a tough balancing act for the employer to set a legal retirement age as they are weighing up the benefits for the business against the discriminatory effect it will have on the employee.

If your employer has dismissed you for no other reason than your age, then this could count as unfair dismissal and age discrimination.

However, if you’re dismissed because of performance-related or misconduct-related issues, then these are not grounds for an age discrimination claim.

The abolition of the default retirement age has paved the way for a potential increase in age discrimination claims made against employers where employers have not changed with the times. Companies and organisations have had to make adjustments, such as non-discriminatory capability assessments, considering how to manage the performance of workers aged 65 and over who would have previously had to retire at that age.

How Simpson Millar Can Help You

Our Employment Solicitors have an excellent track record of dealing with age discrimination claims, see case study £31,000 Settlement Agreement in Age Discrimination Case.

If you feel you’ve been discriminated against because of your age, or forced to retire, or even had it suggested to you that you ought to retire, then this is simply not acceptable and you may have a claim against your employer.

It’s important to take all the correct steps and put yourself in a strong negotiating position. The first thing you should do is speak with one of our experienced Employment Solicitors. Time limits on making a claim are short, so get in touch now.

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