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Forced retirement due to age can be justified: EU

LUXEMBOURG – A European court ruled Thursday that forced retirement due to age can be justified as part of broader social policy aims.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) was ruling on a case originally brought in the British High Court by the Age Concern group, which argued that the law allowing an employer to dismiss someone just because they reached the age of 65 was discriminatory.

The court in Luxembourg said such treatment may be justified "if it is a proportionate means to achieve a legitimate social policy objective related to employment policy, the labour market or vocational training."

What is not allowed, according to the EU court, is forced retirement used by a company merely as a cost-cutting or competitiveness tactic.

The ruling left it up to national courts to decide whether the British law "reflects such a legitimate aim".

Gordon Lishman, director general of Age Concern which is campaigning to scrap forced retirement, saw positive aspects to the ruling.

"We still have a very strong chance of winning in the British Courts. The ECJ has said the (British) government must prove to a high standard why forced retirement ages are needed, and those reasons must be based on social or labour market needs, not the interests of employers."

The court decision reflects the opinion of the European court’s top advisor.

In his 20-page ruling the advocate general dismissed Age Concern’s argument that all cases where discrimination in the work place is to be allowed must be listed in law.

He argued that "it would be impossible to establish such an exhaustive list in advance."

AFP / Expatica