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Imposing retirement deemed to be discrimination

Elderly person's hands folded

In a recent case before the Workplace Relations Commission, A Bookkeeper v A Retail Business (ADJ-5391), the Adjudication Officer held that the imposition of a mandatory retirement age without a contractual basis constituted an unlawful discriminatory termination.

In that particular case, the employee was employed at the respondent’s business as a bookkeeper. She had worked for the business for 12 years without a contract of employment and she was not provided with a statement of her terms of employment. She was expected to retire on two occasions, namely her sixty-fifth and sixty-sixth birthdays. However, as there was no written agreement in place which provided for her retirement, the employee sought to continue working.

The Adjudication Officer held that no justification had been provided for the required retirement and the termination of employment was therefore discriminatory on the grounds of her age.

An award was made for the breach of the employee's rights under the Employment Equality Acts 1998 - 2015.

The Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015, which commenced on 11th January 2016 permits an employer to determine a mandatory retirement age provided the age chosen is objectively and reasonably justified by a legitimate aim and the means of achieving that aim are proportionate and necessary.

This decision should serve as a warning to employers that there is no automatic retirement age for private sector employees under Irish law.

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