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15th March 2007


Compulsory Retirement Okay

The Advocate General of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has said that it is not discriminatory for member states to have national laws that set down a compulsory retirement age.

Athough not binding on the ECJ, his decision in the Spanish case of Palacios de la Villa v Cortefiel Servicios SA, is very likely to be followed when the full Court considers the issue.

Under Spanish law governing collective agreements, employees can be forced to retire when they get to a certain age. Mr Palacios claimed that his dismissal, when he reached the compulsory retirement age, was contrary to the age discrimination provisions in the Framework Directive.

The Advocate General said, however, that the Directive had to be interpreted narrowly so that it did not interfere with the social and employment policies of member states. That being so, it should not contradict national provisions laying down retirement ages.

He then went further and said that even if the ECJ found that the provision was discriminatory, it was justified because of its public policy aim of promoting intergenerational employment.

This decision does not bode well for a challenge that is being brought in the UK by Heyday (an offshoot of Age Concern) that UK provisions in the age regulations allowing for a mandatory retirement age are discriminatory

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