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UK High Court upholds mandatory retirement law pending government review

[JURIST] The UK High Court on Friday upheld [judgment text] a law that permits mandatory retirement policies for workers who reach the age of 65, but said that there is a "compelling" case for raising the age above 65. The challenge to the default retirement age (DRA) was originally brought by Age Concern and Help the Aged [advocacy websites]. Justice Nicholas Blake rejected the challenge, noting his decision would have been different if the government had not announced a review of the law:

If Regulation 30 had been adopted for the first time in 2009, or there had been no indication of an imminent review, I would have concluded for all the above reasons that the selection of age 65 would not have been proportionate. It creates greater discriminatory effect than is necessary on a class of people who both are able to and want to continue in their employment. A higher age would not have any general detrimental labour market consequences or block access to high level jobs by future generations. If the selection of age 65 is not necessary it cannot therefore be justified. I would, accordingly, have granted relief requiring it to be reconsidered as a disproportionate measure and not capable of objective and reasonable justification in the light of all the information available to government.

The groups that challenged the law do not plan to appeal [BBC report] the ruling, as the government is currently reviewing the law.

In March, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] also upheld [JURIST report] the law, finding that it was not in violation of a European Commission [official website] directive [EC 2000/78, PDF] that prohibits discrimination based on age in regards to employment and occupation. In its decision, the ECJ emphasized that the UK regulations are only legal if they meet legitimate social policy objectives. The ruling followed a September opinion [JURIST report] by ECJ Advocate General Jan Marzak that concluded age-based classifications are justifiable in some circumstances. The ECJ ruling ultimately left the decision of whether the laws are legitimate and appropriate to the UK national courts.

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