A fifth of Britons expect to be working until they are 70, but can your employer force you retire before this?

A fifth of Britons expect to be working until they are 70, but can your employer force you retire before this?

A recent study by Nielsen (a market research company) has shown that almost half of Britons are unhappy with their expected retirement age. This comes as no surprise with one in five workers believing they will be working up until their 70th birthday and 19 percent working in to their 80s. The research surveyed over 30,000 people in 60 countries and Eleni Nicholas (Nielsen’s senior vice-president) commented that “Britons have a bleaker retirement outlook than people globally”. Twenty five percent of is the global average that believes they will still be working until the age of 65 but this is doubled in England with a figure of 44 percent. A spokesperson from the Department of Work and Pensions has stated that more and more older workers are choosing to stay in work and indeed stories have been emerging of people still working at the age of 90!

Over half of the Britons asked revealed that they are worried about funding their retirement. The survey found that personal savings will now be the main contributor to retirement income with a third of British workers expecting to live off of their savings followed by company pension schemes. This follows the Government scheme to automatically enrol every worker in a work pension scheme which began in October 2012 and will continue until 2017. With more people having to rely on savings and work pensions, it is probably a good thing that workers are entitled to work for as long as they are capable with the phase out of retirement age three years ago.

The Law

The UK phased out the compulsory retirement age of 65 in 2011 and employees are now generally free to retire when they wish- but there is a caveat. An employer can still force someone to retire if there is an objectively justifiable reason for doing so, or if being under a certain age is an “occupational requirement”- for example in the acting industry.

In order to be objectively justified, the treatment complained about must be a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim” of which there is no exhaustive list. Fortunately for employees, this is a difficult test for employers to overcome- they must have no reasonable alternative. Dismissing someone otherwise, simply based on their age amounts to unlawful direct age discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.

Those who feel that they have been discriminated against can, at the first instance, bring a complaint to their employer. If this fails, most employees who do want to take the matter further will be able to bring a claim in the employment tribunal. Claims need to be brought within 3 months, less one day of the last act of discrimination (which could be your dismissal).

Click here to contact Philip Landau, employment solicitor, in relation to any employment law matter.