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Too Old to Retire?

A man in his nineties is still working and is showing no sign of stopping. His name? Mr Burns. 

No, I’m not talking about the Simpsons Character, Homer’s boss and owner of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant Monty Burns, but rather John Burns of the legal firm Wilson Terris.

John started working at the law firm after finishing school. In the past, he has been an office messenger and a cashier but now he is a legal messenger. Dressed in a suit and tie, he delivers legal documents by hand from his firm’s office to Edinburgh’s Court of Session.

Despite the steep climb between the office and the court, Mr Burns is still going strong at 93-years-old. He has been at the firm for almost 80 years and plans to work well past 100. After being given a clean bill of health by doctors, he said, “I never want to retire. It seems I am to outlast everyone.”

In the UK, there is no default retirement age anymore. So, providing his health stays the same and he is able to fulfil his duties, there is no reason why Mr Burns should not work for as long as he wants to.

Some workplaces might have a retirement age based on health and safety or working practices. For example, airline pilots have a mandatory retirement age of 65. Mandatory retirement at whatever age has to be justified. It is unlawful to dismiss a worker, or select them for redundancy, simply because they are seen as being ‘past it’. For more information, read our legal advice guide on Age Discrimination and Your Legal Rights at Retirement.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the UK population is aging. The fastest population increase is expected to be seen in the numbers of people aged over 85. If there are more people like Mr Burns who continue to work in their eighties and nineties then this could make it difficult for younger generations trying to get into the workplace. That, of course, is one consequence of protecting the older workforce.

Clive Howard is an employment lawyer with Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.

You can call the age discrimination solicitors at Slater and Gordon on freephone 0800 916 9060 or contact us online.

For a full list of our expert guides on age discrimination, visit our age discrimination solicitors’ page.

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