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When is indirect age discrimination legal?

Some of you may recall the well-publicised case of Mr Seldon. He was a partner in Clarkson Wright & Jakes solicitors (‘the Firm’) who claimed age discrimination when he was forced to retire at 65 under his partnership agreement.

The case was last reported in 2012 after the Supreme Court ruling that the case was to be remitted to the Employment Tribunal for it to consider whether the Firm were justified in having a compulsory retirement age of 65 and/or whether another age such as 68 or 70 should have been adopted.

Last month the Employment Tribunal (ET) has found that the Firm’s aim for (a) retention and planning and (b) collegiality were all legitimate aims, which were proportionately achieved by the firm having in place a mandatory retirement age. Hence their policy was legal. 

The ET spent a great deal of time examining the retention and advancement of solicitors, and in particular the retention of ambitious solicitors. Without going into too much legal jargon they concluded that a chosen age for mandatory retirement had to be reflective of the expectations of the partners and other solicitors, ensuring succession and fulfilment of the needs of the Firm.


Unfortunately the outcome of this case is far from setting a precedent allowing businesses to have in place a retirement policy whereby the mandatory age is set at 65 without any fear of falling foul of discrimination laws.

Justification of a mandatory age will continue to depend on the fact sensitive matters relating to a particular employer; furthermore we cannot forget that this judgement was based on the demographics of 2006.

It is worth noting that the tribunal themselves highlighted that the position might have been different post the abolition of the default retirement age and changes in the state pension age. Therefore the outcome of this case may not be as significant as anticipated.


If you are dealing with a complaint relating to indirect age discrimination or believe you are suffering from indirect age discrimination please do not hesitate to contact me on 01133 50 40 30 or at samira.cakali@scesolicitors.co.uk for a free consultation. 

Samira Cakali

Samira Cakali is a pragmatic and approachable solicitor advocate with extensive contentious and non-contentious experience in the fields of employment law as well as civil litigation, within a range of commercial businesses from SME’s to multinationals as well as senior executives.

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