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). If you don’t have a normal retirement age, there is a default age of 65.

In order to have a normal retirement age that is under the age of 65, your employer must be able to ‘objectively justify’ the age. This means that the age is a ‘proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’. In the case of retirement, your employer may be able to show that, for example, the lower age is needed for health and safety requirements that cannot be achieved in any other way.

Can you be forced to retire?

The law on age discrimination is designed to encourage your employer to only retire you if it is appropriate and necessary to do so. However, your employer does have the right to retire you at your normal retirement age (or the default retirement age of 65) as long as they follow the correct procedure.

The procedure includes:

   a requirement that your employer gives you at least six months’ notice of your retirement date

   your right to request to work past your retirement date, and your employer having a duty to consider such a request.

Your employer is not obliged to retire you as soon as you reach your normal retirement age (or 65). If your employer retires you before your normal retirement age (or 65), this may amount to age discrimination and unfair dismissal.

You have a right to ask your employer if you can work past your retirement date and your employer must consider your request.

Making a request

Your employer must notify you of both your retirement date and your right to make a request to work past your retirement date. He or she should do this at least six months – but no more than 12 months – before your retirement date. If you are between six and 12 months of retirement:

   you can only make a request once your employer has notified you of your right

   you must make the request at least three months before the intended retirement date.

However, if your employer has failed to notify you six months before retirement, you can then make a request at any time before you retire.

Your request must be in writing and state whether you wish to continue work:


   for a stated period

   or until a certain date.

Discussing your application

Your employer can either accept your request or meet with you to discuss it before making a decision. This is your opportunity to put your case before your employer. It is perfectly acceptable for your employer to suggest alternative working patterns and retirement dates, other than the one that you requested.

You have a right to be accompanied at the meeting. The companion can be a worker or trade union representative employed by the same employer.

The companion can:

   address the meeting but not answer questions on your behalf

   confer with you during the meeting.

Your companion cannot answer questions on your behalf.

You must take all reasonable steps to attend the meeting. If it is not possible to hold the meeting within a reasonable period your employer may inform you of their decision in writing.

Finding out the outcome

Your employer will inform you of their decision as soon as is reasonable after the meeting. Any decision should be given in writing and should be dated.

If you request is rejected

If your employer rejects your request or proposes a new intended retirement date that is sooner than the date in your original request, you may ask for an appeal meeting. The appeal meeting is the final opportunity for you to put your case before your employer.

Your employer will inform you as soon as is reasonable after the appeal meeting of their decision. If your request is accepted, or a compromise solution is reached, the employer should inform you of that decision. Any decision should be given in writing and should be dated.

If your appeal is rejected, your employer is obliged to inform you of this in writing and of the date of your retirement. The employer does not need to give a reason why your application has been rejected. You cannot make another request.

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


Nicky Ackerley BA(Hons)

Nicky Ackerley HR Support is owned by Nicky Ackerley who has a BA (Hons) B usiness 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.

Veterinary Nursing Journal • VOL 25 • No3 • March 2010 •