This is a question we often get from employers and the easy answer is that there is no “normal” retirement age. Contracts of employment commonly provide for a retirement age of 65 but that is not the end of the issue – far from it!

EU law has now been introduced to Irish legislation under the Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2015. Section 10 of the 2015 Act requires objective justification of the fixing of different ages for the retirement of employees. Section 4 of the 2015 Act requires that an employer who offers a fixed term contract to an employee who is over the compulsory retirement age, must objectively justify the granting of a fixed term contract so as to avoid a charge of age discrimination. To avoid a claim of discrimination in respect of both the above cases, there are two standards that apply. Firstly, the measure must be “objectively and reasonably justified by a legitimate aim”. Secondly, the means of achieving the aim must be “appropriate and necessary”.

A good illustration of what is a legitimate aim can be seen in a decision by the Equality Tribunal in the matter of Saunders v CHC Ireland Limited, which decided that the application of a retirement age of 55 to a winchman was permissible. The Equality Officer was satisfied that the aims of protecting the safety of the winchmen themselves, protecting the health of safety of people who require rescue by the winchmen, and the efficient functioning of a search and rescue team amounted to a legitimate aim, justifying the retirement age of 55.

The 2015 Act was commenced on the 1 January 2016, almost by stealth according to most employment lawyers!

If you want advice on retirement age or any other issue concerning your work force then do not hesitate to contact us.