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Can my employer force me to retire?

Recent legislation has removed the right for your employer to be able to force you to retire when you reach the age of 65. Previously, so long as they followed a certain set procedure your employer could make you retire when you reached the age of 65 (known as the default retirement age) regardless of the job you were doing or whether you wanted to stay.

Why did the law change?

The reasoning for this change is that with people living longer these days and pensions often failing to sufficiently provide for an individual over their retirement period, people need to work longer in order to finance themselves. The compulsory retirement legislation could thus allow an employer to retire his employee who may then subsequently find it difficult to get another job due to their age.

The change in the law allows people of 65 the same employment rights as those younger than them providing they are still able to do their job.

When did the law change?

The changes to the law came into effect on the 6 April 2011 and so only those people informed that they would face compulsory retirement before 6 April can be forced to retire by 1 October. After 1 October your employer will no longer be able to use the compulsory retirement procedure.

What if I was forced to retire before 6 April?

If you were informed of your employer’s wish to make you take compulsory retirement (before 6 April 2011) the correct procedure must still be followed. If this procedure was not followed then you may have had a claim for unfair dismissal. The correct procedure is as follows:

The employee must be given the correct period of notice

Your employer must inform you that they intend to force you to take compulsory retirement and when they wish for you to take it; this must be in no less than six months time, and no more than 12 months.

The employer must inform you of your right to ask to continue working

Whilst you cannot prevent your employer from forcing you to take compulsory retirement you must be told that you can request to continue working, which your employer must consider. When making this request the employee must state how long they wish to continue working for.

Your employer must hold a meeting with you to discuss the compulsory retirement

At this meeting, if you have requested to carry on working, the employer must discuss this issue with you and inform you whether they agree to your request or not. They must also confirm with you the date at which your retirement will commence.

You have the right to appeal

If the employer has rejected your request to continue working, or agreed to allow you to stay for a shorter period than you have requested, you have a right to appeal. Your employer must inform you of your right to appeal when they inform you of their decision in regard to your request to continue working. If you wish to appeal you must do so as quickly as reasonably practical. If an appeal is made, the employer must again meet with the employee to discuss.

You must be informed of the final decision in writing

This must be done as soon as possible after the decision is made.

This procedure must be followed and any deviation from it can lead to an unfair dismissal claim.

The future
After 1 October this procedure will be defunct. Whilst these changes have lead to mainstream praise, given that it will hopefully reduce the pension deficit and allow people who want to work to be able to, there are still certain questions to be asked. The legislation does not give very clear guidance on how an employer can make somebody retire when, because of their age, their performance diminishes.
In order to avoid claims for unfair dismissal an employer is advised to contact a solicitor should this situation become apparent.

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