Yes, said the employment tribunal in White v Ministry of Justice.

Background

Mr White was a retired circuit judge. He claimed that the Ministry of Justice’s statutory requirement to retire at age 70 was age discrimination. He argued that, at 70, the majority of judges are still performing at their peak, and that the chosen cut-off point was too young and should instead be set at age 72 or 75.

The employment tribunal rejected Mr White’s claim, concluding that the compulsory retirement age of 70 was appropriate and reasonably necessary. The tribunal found that retirement at age 70 was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim of preserving judicial independence and judicial dignity, maintaining public confidence, enabling workforce planning, sharing opportunities between generations and improving the diversity of the judiciary.

Implications

This decision shows that 70 is enforceable as a retirement age for judges.

Even though this case is fact-specific, this outcome demonstrates that it is not in principle discriminatory for employers to pick an age from within a band of ages which serves an employer’s objective in having a fixed retirement age, provided it is legitimate and proportionate to do so. It also sets out some of the grounds on which this might be the case.

The full judgment of the employment tribunal can be read here.

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