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Heydey legal challenge is far from over

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Age Concern and Heyday have rejected reports that their legal challenge against the UK Government on mandatory retirement ages has reached the end of the line. Whilst the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice last week disagreed with Heyday’s legal interpretation of the EU Directive upon which the Age regulations are based, he also confirmed that the Directive requires the national default retirement age to be justified in the British courts. 

The next stage is for the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to publish its judgment – which could confirm or reject the Advocate General’s view.  After this, the case will return to London, where the High Court will look at all the evidence and decide whether the national default retirement age can be justified.

This means that the case is far from over.  The UK Government will have to make a case to the High Court as to why its social policy or employment policy objectives make a national default retirement age necessary.  The High Court will be guided by the ECJ’s interpretation of EU law. 

Despite Europe’s ageing population, the Advocate General’s opinion also implied that ageism is less significant than other forms of discrimination, leaving workers open to direct discrimination in the workplace because of their age. 

There is no guarantee that the ruling by the judges, expected in December, will follow the Advocate General’s opinion.  In another recent European case on retirement practices in Spain, the opinion of the Advocate General was not followed in the ECJ judgment.

Ailsa Ogilvie, Director of Heyday, said: “Unfortunately, many of the recent media reports have misinterpreted the legal nuances of the Heyday case.  The fact is that we still have a strong case and we will fight on for the millions of older workers in the UK.”

Gordon Lishman, Director General of Age Concern, said: “Direct discrimination on the basis of age is a serious issue and only justifiable in very limited circumstances.  We are hopeful that the High Court will reach the same conclusion.”









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