What is Compulsory Retirement?

29 November 2018

Legislation came into force in the UK in 2011 which abolished compulsory retirement, meaning that employers cannot force employees to retire before they are ready. If an employer does try to force an employee to retire based on age alone then this may amount to unlawful discrimination. There are some exceptions to this however, including firefighters, as this work has an age limit which is set by law.

Being Forced to Retire at the Default Retirement Age

Formerly in the UK there was a default retirement age of 65. While this didn't mean that all workers would be forced to retire at 65, it did entitle employers to issue compulsory retirement notices to any employee over the age of 65, giving them a minimum of 6 months' notice to retire.

The Employment Equality (Repeal of Retirement Age Provisions) Regulations 2011 were brought in at the beginning of April 2011 to phase out the practice of compulsory retirement. Under the Regulations, an employee cannot be forced to retire based on age alone.

If an employer wants to enforce retirement, it is still possible for them to do this but they will need to objectively justify this decision, and this cannot be based solely on the employee's age. These Regulations were introduced to put an end to what was considered to be a discriminatory practice.

When Can an Employee Be Forced to Retire?

Workers in certain roles or industries can still be forced to retire at a certain age. For example, all fire fighters working in the fire service in the UK are subject to compulsory retirement at the age of 55. This is a legal requirement which applies to all firefighters, irrespective of their rank.

If a worker is required to have certain physical abilities in order to carry out their role, then their employer could have grounds to force them to retire at a certain age. This might apply to some workers in the construction industry, for example.

Working Past State Pension Age

If you do choose to continue working past the state pension age, and you are not impacted by any of the above factors, then you are legally entitled to do so.

Once you have reached the state pension age, you can begin claiming your pension even if you continue working. Alternatively, you can decide to wait until you have actually retired. This doesn't mean that you'll lose out, but instead you'll receive larger weekly payments when you do begin claiming it.

If you have a private pension then you'll also be able to claim this once you've reached the agreed age, as set out in the terms of your pension. Again, you don't need to have actually finished working in order to claim this.

Furthermore, you will no longer be liable to make National Insurance contributions once you have reached the state pension age. You may still be liable to pay tax on your income, but this will depend on how much you earn.

Reducing Your Hours or Requesting Flexible Working

If you do decide to work past the state pension age, remember that there's also the option of requesting to work fewer hours or more flexibly. This can be a good option for those who want to begin winding down but aren't ready to give up work all together.

Your employer does have the right to refuse this request but this must have been dealt with in a reasonable manner and they must have properly assessed the advantages and disadvantages of the request.

If You Are Forced into Retirement

If an employer does try to force an employee to retire based on age alone then this may amount to unlawful discrimination. The law protects workers against unlawful discrimination based on a number of 'protected characteristics,' including age.

If you feel that you have been a victim of discrimination at work, then it's important to speak to an Employment Solicitor to see if you may be able to make an Employment Tribunal Claim. At Co-op Legal Services, our Employment Solicitors can advise on Age Discrimination at Work Claims.

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