The Ministry of Justice operates a compulsory retirement age for judges of 70 years old. Mr White, a circuit judge who was retired upon reaching 70 years old, brought a claim of direct age discrimination in the Employment Tribunal.
The main issue in this case related to objective justification of the retirement age. The Employment Tribunal began by looking at the aims of the retirement age.
The Ministry of Justice gave a number of legitimate aims for its retirement age. These were:
- inter-generational fairness;
- the preservation of the judge’s dignity; and,
- maintaining public confidence.
The rationale behind these aims was accepted by the Employment Tribunal, who stated that “there can be no doubt that the aims which the [Ministry of Justice] is pursuing in having a retirement age of 70 are legitimate aims of social policy”.
The Employment Tribunal then assessed the proportionality of the aims. The Tribunal acknowledged that the retirement age of 70 must be proportionate when balancing the importance of the legitimate aims pursued by the Ministry of Justice and the extent of the discriminatory effect it could have upon Mr White and other judges. Mr White was unable to show any significant harm in a retirement age of 70 as opposed to his suggested age of 75 (or 72). Retirement based on an individual assessment, as submitted by Mr White, was considered to be “potentially damaging to the rule of law”. The Tribunal ruled that the retirement age of 70 was a proportionate means of achieving the aims.
The Employment Tribunal therefore agreed with the Ministry of Justice’s submission that the compulsory retirement age of 70 years old was objectively justified. The Employment Tribunal dismissed Mr White’s claim.
Mr G B N White v. Ministry of Justice, 24 November 2014, London Central Employment Tribunal, case number 2201298/2013