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Default Retirement Age Lawful... For Now

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Currently, under the , employers can require all staff to retire at 65 - the default retirement age ('DRA') - regardless of their circumstances and even if they don't want to retire, so long as they follow the .

1.4 million people choose to work beyond 65, however, and many more would like to carry on working, but are prevented from doing so by their employers.

Heyday challenge

In 2006, the National Council on Aging began a legal challenge against the DRA, arguing it contravenes European law.  This case became known as the Heyday challenge.  Last week, this challenge came to an end in the High Court, which ruled the DRA of 65 is lawful.

In coming to this conclusion, Mr. Justice Blake said that if it "had been adopted for the first time in 2009Ç or there had been no indication of an  Ç I would have concluded ... that the selection of age 65 would not have been proportionate.  I wouldÇ accordinglyÇ have granted relief requiring it to be reconsidered..."

He reasoned, however, that the DRA had to be judged as of 2006 - the date it was implemented - and highlighted that the "preponderance of consultees" on the legislation at that time favoured age 65.

The ruling means that more than 260 claims for age discrimination pending before employment tribunals are now likely to be dismissed.

Andrew Lockley of Irwin Mitchell, the law firm representing the claimants, said that if the government had not brought forward its review of the DRA it would have lost the case:

"The judge has effectively given the government breathing space to go away and change the rules.  His comment that he cannot see how the DRA can stay at 65 will give renewed hope to thousands of workers approaching that age.  Essentially, the government has been told to think again."

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