Richard Grogan on employment law: Employment equality legislation – retirement age
Employment law solicitor Richard Grogan of Richard Grogan & Associates writes on the need for employers to think ahead to their employees’ retirement.
The case of AD/16/74 being Connaught Airport Development Limited and John Glavey is a timely reminder for employers of the importance of having a retirement age clearly specified in the contract of employment.
In this case, the Labour Court found that they could not accept that the complainant had knowledge of a retirement age of 65. They also held that the respondent employer had ample opportunity to inform the complainant of a requirement that he retires at 65 and that no evidence was produced that he had been so informed. The Court helpfully gave a detailed overview of the law on implied terms.
There was no express term in his conditions of employment requiring him to retire at 65. The Court in this case ordered compensation of €6,500. This case highlights the fact that an employer will be in difficulty where there is no obvious contractual retirement age expressed or implied. The employment contract did not contain any standard retirement clause. The employee was not a member of the pension scheme. The Court held he could not be fixed with knowledge of a pension retirement age.
The issue therefore in this case is to whether the retirement was objectively justified was not relevant. This is normally an issue which is raised in numerous cases as justification. This can include such matters as succession planning, fairness and sometimes health and safety. However, these arguments would effectively be irrelevant where as in this case the employer was unable to establish the existence of an contractual retirement clause.
This case is very important for reminding employers of the importance of well drafted contracts of employment. Such contracts should include such key clauses as any mandatory retirement age.
In the absence of mandatory retirement clauses, employers may struggle to defend any age discrimination or unfair dismissal claim. The award in this case may appear to be small in the sum of €6,500. However, this is case where the employee was not seeking reinstatement. If the employee had been seeking reinstatement, this could have been a very expensive claim for the employer if reinstatement had been ordered.