Once again it appears RTE has got into difficulty when trying to enforce a mandatory retirement age clause against an employee. In this particular case Ms Roper successfully brought a claim that RTE had unlawfully discriminated against her on the grounds of age by making her retire at 65. Ms Roper was awarded one year's salary (€100,000) which is double what Ms Cox was awarded against RTE in a similar case in 2018.
Under the Employment Equality Acts 1998 - 2015 an employer can only legally force an employee to retire if they have:
a) a mandatory contractual retirement age; and
b) have a retirement age policy that can show the mandatory retirement age is objectively justified by reference to a legitimate aim and that the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary.
A lot of employers will have a mandatory retirement age in their employment contracts, but fail to have the necessary policy justifying its existence, which effectively makes the clause redundant.
In this particular case RTE had a retirement age policy and a contractual clause. However, the WRC rejected the objective justification relied upon on the grounds that it was generic reasoning that effectively had been applied on a blanket basis. The WRC explained that the objective justification must be looked at individually, so that it is specific to that role since each role is different, particularly in such a large organisation as RTE.
So what can we learn from this decision?
- Employers need to review their retirement age policy regularly, ideally on annual basis.
- It is also advisable to make sure that the objective justification for any retirement age is considered in respect of the specific role and not just adopted on a blanket basis.
- It is also not advisable to just list a number of objective justifications in the hope that one or more may be relevant for any particular employee.
- Employers should ensure that their retirement age policy can be amended and that any changes are clearly communicated to the affected employees.
- Consider whether a fixed term contract might be a feasible option, bearing in mind it must also provide objective justification.
It is “inevitable” RTÉ will face more discrimination cases on grounds of age following the ruling it must pay a former television producer €100,000 for forcing her to retire at 65, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has said. The State broadcaster was ordered by the Workplace Relations Commission to pay the compensation to Anne Roper, an executive television producer, who was obliged to retire in July 2018 despite requests to continue working for RTÉ for a further 18 months.