A lawyer forced to retire at 65 lost a Supreme Court Appeal on age discrimination today.
Leslie Seldon, a partner in a Kent firm, claimed he had been treated unfairly when compulsorily retired at 65.
He appealed to the UK’s highest court after losing a fight with Clarkson Wright & Jakes, which is based in Orpington, in the Court of Appeal.
His case concerned the scope for justifying direct discrimination on the ground of age, and in particular a mandatory retirement age contained within a partnership agreement.
But today five Supreme Court justices unanimously dismissed his appeal.
However, they 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”.
After the ruling, Clive Howard, partner in the employment team at law firm Russell Jones & Walker, said: “The Supreme Court decision in Seldon is disappointing given the recent abolition of the forced retirement of employees, since it upheld that a partner at a law firm could, in principle, be forced to retire at a given age.
“This would appear to undermine the Government’s decision to abolish retirement ages in the first place.
“However, employers should not form the view that this means it will be lawful to force staff to retire at 65 up and down the country.
“There were specific factors which applied to this small law firm in Kent, which will not be relevant to every organisation.
“The Supreme Court has asked the Employment Tribunal to consider whether the retirement age of 65 was justified on the facts of this case.”
Richard Fox, partner and head of employment at law firm Kingsley Napley, said after the ruling: “This is a significant decision, not just for partnerships but all companies craving certainty and guidance about how to handle issues of retirement and succession.
“The abolition of the default retirement age and increasing numbers of people wanting to work longer to make up for inadequate pension provision, combined with economic pressure on jobs, is a real conundrum for employers.
“In that sense the guidance offered by the Supreme Court today that it is possible to justify compulsory retirement on specific grounds is very much to be welcomed.”
Lawyer loses retirement age appeal