A new piece of legislation, the Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2015 has been commenced, with effect as and from 1st January last. This legislation makes a number of amendments to  existing employment equality legislation and clears up some of the confusion with regard to retirement ages in  that employers may continue to set compulsory retirement ages provided they can show that it is objectively and reasonably justified by a legitimate aim and the means of achieving that aim are proportionate and necessary. Put simply, the reasons for doing so must stand up as legitimate and proportionate under the circumstances.

There is of course a State pension age, which is a separate issue. This is currently set at 66, and rising in years to come. Many employers have set the retirement age at 66 but this currently requires the retiree to seek state benefit in the form of job seekers allowance in the intervening year until age 66.

If an employee works beyond the normal mandatory retirement age in an organisation, or if there is no express retirement age in his/her contract, there is a solid argument that any attempt to force the employee to retire an employee would be discriminatory on grounds of age.

As a result of the change in legislation commencement of the Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2015, this question has now been resolved and it is now certainly the Irish legal position that mandatory retirement ages set by employers must be capable of objective justification. For example, creating vacancies so that younger people may progress might be considered objective. Such justification will be forensically examined so that it does not become a ploy to arbitrarily get rid of an older worker. Therefore, in setting a mandatory retirement age, or in reviewing an existing mandatory retirement age, consideration must be given to whether or not the retirement age is justified in a reasonable and quantifiable manner.

This is a tricky enough area so why not contact the Workers Rights Centre at 1870 74 78 81