This is a step forward for older workers says solicitor despite defeat
A TUNBRIDGE Wells solicitor who took on his employers in a row over age discrimination has pledged to continue his fight on behalf of workers who are 65 or older.
Leslie Seldon, from Bidborough, spoke exclusively to the Courier this week after losing an appeal at the Supreme Court.
He said: "This is a step forward for older workers."
Mr Seldon took Orpington-based law firm Clarkson Wright and Jakes to an employment tribunal in 2007 after it forced him to retire in 2006 at the age of 65.
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He claimed it was age discrimination but in a landmark ruling on April 25, and after a five-year battle, the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed his appeal and decided the firm did have valid reasons for its retirement policy.
However, organisations which represent older people welcomed the case for bringing attention to such a thorny issue.
They said it rammed home to all employers how important it was to have valid reasons for forcing staff to retire at a certain age.
The case was also sent back to tribunal to examine whether Clarkson Wright and Jakes' policy of a 65 retirement age was an appropriate age.
On Tuesday, the 71-year-old father-of-four, of Penshurst Road, said: "I wanted to work longer. Pensions are not doing well. I had financial commitments and I have got responsibilities towards my family.
"The Supreme Court ruling was not totally unexpected but not totally satisfactory. It's not over yet – we are in this for the long haul."
The Equality and Human Rights Commission, which funded Mr Seldon's case, said the judgement made the law clearer, reminded employers of their responsibilities and showed it was harder for employers to justify mandatory retirement ages.
Age UK said the judgement was a "wake-up call to employers" that age discrimination was not acceptable.
The original tribunal rejected Mr Seldon's claims and found the firm's policy ensured younger workers had the chance to be a partner and gave them an incentive to stay at the firm, allowed the firm to plan for vacancies, and limited the need to fire under-performing partners.
Mr Seldon appealed against the decision, taking his case to the Employment Appeal Tribunal and Court of Appeal, before his hearing at the Supreme Court.
He said the case, one of the first of its kind since the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 came into force, had highlighted important national issues which needed addressing.
He added: "It's to raise the profile of these issues and obtain some clarification of the law. It's something of great significance for the future of the job market. Over the next ten years prospective new jobs will be 13.4 million but young entrants into the job market will be seven million.
"A shortfall in the market means we have to develop older workers and use their skills and experience.
"Just because someone reaches a certain age is not a reason to require them to stop working if they feel up to it and want to carry on."
The judgement means employers will now have to give careful consideration to retirement policy and justify mandatory retirement rules.
Andrew Wright, a manager partner at Clarkson Wright and Jakes, said the ruling was not a surprise and that the firm was "astonished" by Mr Seldon's claims because he had previously signed a document agreeing to leave at 65.
Mr Wright added: "It has been a very long-running saga, a time-consuming and expensive distraction for our firm.
"The cost to the public purse has been high, with many of the lawyers involved being paid for ultimately by the taxpayer."