William Fry warns businesses to keep mandatory retirement rules within the law

William Fry warns businesses to keep mandatory retirement rules within the law

Pictured (L-R): Ian Devlin, head of pensions at William Fry; Catherine O'Flynn, head of employment and benefits at William Fry; Derek Bell, COO at the Retirement Planning Council (RPC); and Jeff Greene, partner at William Fry

Irish employers looking to enforce a mandatory retirement age cannot rely solely on an employee’s contract of employment even if it does stipulate a mandatory retirement age, businesses have been warned at a William Fry breakfast briefing.

Over 100 clients attended the briefing on the topic “Mandatory Retirement - A thing of the past?” at the law firm’s Grand Canal office yesterday morning.

Irish legislation, as well as European case law and subsequent rulings by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), provides that it is discriminatory to compel an employee to retire at a certain age unless there is an “objective justification” for requiring them to do so.

Delegates heard that in order for a particular retirement age to be objectively justifiable it must correspond to a legitimate aim of the employer and be appropriate and necessary.

Employment and benefits partner Jeff Greene said: “Age is now by far the most-claimed discriminatory ground in claims at the WRC, so Irish employers need to carefully consider on an ongoing basis what the objective justification is for any compulsory retirement age. Doing so will minimize their risk of age discrimination claims.”

Ian Devlin, head of pensions at William Fry, provided an overview of pension issues that need to be considered in this context.

He discussed some of the growing pressures confronting employers when it comes to helping employees prepare for the financial decisions they face regarding retirement benefits, and provided an overview of the emerging trends and market developments in this area and how the changing pensions landscape may help create new options for employees when it comes to accessing retirement savings.

Derek Bell, COO of the not-for-profit Retirement Planning Council (RPC), also spoke at the event, recommending measures that employers should consider implementing to prepare employees for retirement.

Some employers have introduced ‘soft landing’ programmes that allow workers to reduce hours gradually up to retirement, while others offer flexible working options, including remote-working, part-time and flexitime roles. Mr Bell said the key is to make employees comfortable about retirement as it approaches.

Concluding the briefing, Mr Greene said: “With the majority of employees believing that they will have to work longer than ever before, Irish employers must therefore ensure they have the processes in place to manage and reduce the risks associated with operating a contractual retirement age.”

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