The default retirement age is being phased out over a transitional period from 6th April to 30th September 2011. After this date, employers will no longer be able to 'retire' employees when they reach 65 years.

Retirement age

Retirement is when you, as an employee, come to the end of a period of work and leave the organisation employing you – usually on the grounds of age. For employment rights purposes, your ‘normal retirement age’ is the age when people doing your job normally retire (which must apply equally to men and women).

Previously, if you didn’t have a normal retirement age, there was a default age of 65.

From October 2011, it will be unlawful to ‘retire’ employees unless it can be objectively justified. This means that the business needs to show:

   that it (retirement) corresponds with a real business need

   that having a retirement age meets that need/aim 

   that this is a proportionate way of meeting the need/aim.

Can you be forced to retire?

No. The removal of the default retirement age puts the onus of responsibility onto the employee to advise their employer when they wish to retire.

Your employer is not obliged to retire you as soon as you reach your normal retirement age either. If your employer retires you, this may amount to age discrimination and unfair dismissal.

If your employer believes that there are issues with your performance or ability to carry out your role after you have reached 65, they will have to follow their disciplinary process on the grounds of:

   performance dismissal

   capability/ill health.

Retirement will still be an option for both the employee and the employer (but employer-initiated retirements will need to be justified).


Nicky Ackerley BA(Hons)

Nicky Ackerley HR Support is owned by Nicky Ackerley who has a BA (Hons) Business Studies Degree, is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and who has been a practising HR manager for over 20 years. HR Support Consultancy has provided the BVNA's Industrial Relations Service since it began in 2002.

If you have any questions or queries relating to this, call the BVNA Legal Helpline on 01822 870270.  

Members of the BVNA can contact the IRS Helpline for free advice and support.

Call 01822 870270 or e-mail

• VOL 24 • June 2011 • Veterinary Nursing Journal