It’s not fun being a pensioner today. Gone are the days of early retirement, gold-plated pensions and days spent in the potting shed or baking scones and jam.
With the state pension averaging just over £5,000 a year, the value of private pensions falling by nearly a third since 2008, divorces among the 60-pluses on the rise and more than one in 10 aged over 60 still paying a mortgage, you can forget retiring to sunnier climes.
Even if you have squirrelled away your pennies, fate has dealt a blow - that retirement haven, Spain, is facing a “crisis of enormous proportions”, to quote Spanish foreign minister José Manuel García-Margallo last week.
So it’s no wonder that one in 12 of today’s workers is aged over 65. Thank goodness for the abolition of the Default Retirement Age (DRA) in October last year, they must think. At least we are protected from being dismissed on the grounds of age.
Well don’t get too comfortable. Last week, a landmark case put the exemption provisions of the DRA abolition to test in the most significant age discrimination case for years.
In a nutshell, one Leslie Seldon, a former senior civil litigation partner at law firm Clarkson Wright and Jakes (CWJ), was required to retire at 65. CWJ argued its retirement policy satisfied the exemption requirements as it enabled effective succession planning, aided retention by providing associates with a clear career path to partnership, and meant it did not need to remove partners using the performance management process - thereby retaining their dignity.
In its ruling the Supreme Court accepted the principle that an employer could have its own default retirement age. But before employers go running to reinstate their DRAs, it cautioned against adopting this without careful scrutiny.
The case has now been sent back to the employment tribunal for deeper examination. Only then will we discover whether it is possible to justify retirement on specific grounds. But the ruling does offer a glimmer of light for businesses that campaigned against scrapping the DRA last year.
In the meantime, anyone nearing 65 years old should not panic. With our debt-ridden economy and ageing population, we will all be working into our 70s before long. Hasta la vista!