Employee retirement is a sensitive issue that needs extremely careful handling in the light of age discrimination laws. The point was underlined by one case in which a veteran solicitor claimed that he had been forced to resign after being frozen out by his younger colleagues.
The man, in his 60s, was a director and shareholder of an incorporated legal practice and was at least a decade closer to retirement than his fellow directors. He claimed that, at a crucial meeting, he had been told that the question of his retirement was ‘the elephant in the room’ and that it was ‘nothing personal, but you are the oldest’.
However, an Employment Tribunal (ET) noted that, however clumsy or inappropriate those comments may have been, it was hard to see why the man had been so taken aback by the subject of his retirement being raised. There was no basis for his belief that the other directors wanted to get rid of him because of his age. His subsequent departure from the practice had been on an agreed basis that he would be fully remunerated for a number of months without having to work.
The man claimed that he had been forced to resign in the belief that, if he did not agree to the termination package, he would be summarily dismissed. However, the ET found it transparently obvious that his employment had been brought to an end by voluntary and mutual agreement. The ET accepted that he was entitled to five days of unpaid holiday remuneration, but rejected his complaints of age discrimination, wrongful dismissal and constructive unfair dismissal.