The danger of forcing retirement

A recent tribunal reminds us that forcing employees to retire against their will could lead to difficulties after a former company accountant won £182,000 for age discrimination. He was found to have been unfairly dismissed and discriminated against after his employer tried to force the 69-year-old to retire.

The pay-out covered loss of earnings and benefits, injury to feelings from age discrimination, and an extra payment for the employer’s to follow the Acas Code of Practice.

The accountant had worked for the company for 16 years and claimed his former employer pushed him out because they wanted him to retire at 65 and had even gone as far as to recruit his replacement in anticipation of this.

After a lengthy period of sick leave for work-related stress following a particularly hostile meeting with the company’s management, the tribunal was told the business then failed to follow the recommendations of two medical reports designed to help the accountant return to work.

The case demonstrates what happens when a dismissal is disguised as something else. Having open dialogue about retirement plans is a healthier way to deal with employees in this age demographic and agreeing medium term strategies such as part time working, reducing hours and cutting workload helps with succession planning and avoids costly litigation.

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