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Age is defined in the Equality Act 2010 by reference to a person’s age group.


On the 6 April 2011 there was a change to the law relating to retirement. The effect of this change is that in most cases workers can now retire when they are ready, rather than when their employer decides. It is direct age discrimination to require or persuade a worker to retire because of their age unless you can objectively justify doing so.

In most circumstances, it will not be objectively justifiable for an institution to set their own retirement age. To objectively justify doing so, the institution would need to be able to produce convincing evidence to show, in relation to the particular job:

  • that they are trying to achieve a legitimate aim
  • that the policy of setting a retirement age is a proportionate way of achieving that aim, and the actual age chosen for retirement is also proportionate

Proving that a retirement decision is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim will be difficult to demonstrate in many situations, and it is unlikely that a retirement age would be objectively justifiable in the higher education sector or Scotland’s further education sector.

ECU and Oxford Brookes University (2011) Managing flexible retirement and extended working lives

Benefits based on length of service

This provision (schedule 9, paragraph 10) is designed to ensure that employers do not have to justify differences in pay and benefits that have arisen from service of up to five years. An employer can make awards on the basis of five years or more service, if it reasonably believes this fulfils a business need (for example, by encouraging loyalty or motivation, or rewarding the experience of staff).