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BeeHive  >  BeeLines  >  2008  >  Jun  >  European Ageism Effect

European Ageism Effect

I know I’m beginning to sound like a broken record (and I really did mean to write about a different issue in today’s BeeLine), but Ms Bruun’s trawl through the net-based pensions trivia has unearthed yet another gem.

You’ll remember maybe that I wrote about the Johns v. Solent case that’s been on the go for ages now.  It’s the one where the lady concerned was asked to stop working because of her age and she’s not happy about it.  The BeeLine I wrote late last year on the subject was called Europe Calling and you can re-read it if you like by just clicking the mouse in the appropriate spot on the screen before you.

The question is, is it ageist to require people to stop working because of their age?  Me, I don’t think you need a court case to sort that one out; a dictionary would do it wouldn’t it?  But that’s not the way of things in the real world, so a court case it is.

The story, so far, is this.  Anna Johns, who is 72 right now, was made to retire when she was 70.  Last week in the Court of Appeal she managed to score a victory of sorts in that her case has now been put on hold until the outcome of something called the Heyday Test Case is known.  The Heyday case, which is sponsored by Age Concern, is at last due to go before the European Court of Justice in July this year.  If Heyday win their case then it would open the floodgates for workers forced to retire to claim compensation from their former employers.  It’s a big deal and will, one way or the other, change our notion of retirement.

The case of Mrs Johns was thought to be a dead duck because of a similar case that a Spanish guy took to the European Court and lost.  But the Court of Appeal decided that the Spanish case and the Heyday case were substantially different and awaiting the outcome of the Heyday stuff was the way forward for her.

What’s on the line with all this?  Well, the UK government’s interpretation of the European ageism laws was enshrined in our pensions legislation changes a year or two ago with the implementation of a ‘default’ retirement age of 65 being put in place.  Since then companies that used to ask people to retire at, say, age 60 have had to change that to age 65.  But many campaigners have long argued that the default age simply allows employers to sack people at age 65 and therefore contradicts its other aim of encouraging longer working lives.

Long-suffering readers of this week’s BeeLines will be aware that many people these days work beyond age 65 not because they want to, but because they have to.  That, of course, could be seen as a failure of our pension system, which it is in a way and I guess that’s why we need proper reform that will enable people and their employers to build worthwhile pension savings.

The bottom line on this is that it all comes down to income streams really.  When we’re old we’ll either get a decent income stream in the form of State support (don’t hold your breath); or we’ll get it from our lifetime savings in pensions etc. (which only some of us manage); or we’ll just have to keep on selling our time by working.  I’ll keep you up-to-date with the outcome of the Heyday and Johns cases as things develop.  Ms Bruun’s keeping a beady eye on them.

Steve Bee

19 June 2008

PS  Anyone bored with the BeeHive’s recent obsession with the plight of the over-65s can read Steve’s latest CityWire blog on the very different and evergreen subject of houses and pensions.  Just click the link - Do you know what's happening to your pension?

Source: - European test case could give over-65s the right to stay at work, 16 June 2008 – Johns vs Solent: small victory for older workers, 12 June 2008

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