[JURIST] The European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] ruled [materials; press release, PDF] Thursday that UK regulations permitting mandatory retirement policies for workers who reach the age of 65 do not violate an EU anti-discrimination law. The case was originally brought by the group Age Concern England [advocacy website], which argued that the UK regulations violate 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:
Article 6(1) of Directive 2000/78 must be interpreted as meaning that it does not preclude a national measure which, like Regulation 3 of the Regulations at issue in the main proceedings, does not contain a precise list of the aims justifying derogation from the principle prohibiting discrimination on grounds of age. However, Article 6(1) offers the option to derogate from that principle only in respect of measures justified by legitimate social policy objectives, such as those related to employment policy, the labour market or vocational training.
The ruling follows 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 leaves the decision of whether the laws are legitimate and appropriate to the UK national courts. The decision placed a high standard of proof on the UK government for establishing the law's legitimacy, a position welcomed [press release] by Age Concern.
Last year, the ECJ rejected an advocate general's opinion [JURIST report; OUT-LAW report] in a Spanish case [ECJ materials] challenging an employer's mandatory retirement policy. The ECJ found that such policies do not violate the EU prohibition against age discrimination if intended to further the legitimate public interest of increasing employment and if the retirees are provided with full pensions.