The case returned to the employment tribunal for a decision as to whether the selection by the employer solicitors’ firm of the compulsory age of 65 for retirement had been proportionate to achieve its aims of retention and workforce planning.

Seldon v Clarkson Wright & Jakes: Employment Appeal Tribunal: 13 May 2014

Discrimination – Discrimination on grounds of age – Compulsory retirement age – Employee partner in solicitors’ firm being required to retire at age 65

Employment Appeal Tribunal summary: ‘The claimant alleged age discrimination against him because he had to retire at 65 from the solicitors’ practice (‘R’) in which he had been a partner. R was held by superior courts to have legitimate aims which it was appropriate to achieve by applying a rule requiring retirement at a fixed age - namely, retention of associate solicitors, workforce planning, and ‘congeniality’ (not blighting the inter-personal atmosphere by challenging a partner with evidence of declining performance at a time in his life when it might be more likely). 

‘The issue for the Employment Tribunal was whether the age of 65 was reasonably necessary to achieve this. It held it was. That decision was held to be within its entitlement to make - the fact that it could have been set a year later did not mean it was wrong in law to fix it at 65, which fell within a narrow range identified as proportionate (64-66) and it was appropriate to take into account other considerations such as the legislation at the time, and the default retirement age, in setting it at that point within the range.’

Richard O’Dair (instructed by the Public Access Scheme) for the employee; Thomas Croxford and Emily Neill (instructed by Clarkson Wright & Jakes LLP) for the employer.