Rules that legitimise age discrimination against magistrates should be overhauled as part of a broader rethink of attitudes to older workers, says former pensions minister Baroness Ros Altmann.
Altmann has highlighted the plight of magistrates, who subject to rules that sit outside age discrimination legislation that force them to retire at age 70.
Judges are required by law to retire at age 75, a limit that was unsuccessfully challenged in 2014 as discriminatory.
Altmann is calling for an end to the forced retirement, which she says is causing a shortage of magistrates, and replacing it with a capability test.
Over the past ten years, the number of magistrates has halved to 15,000, more than half of who are over age 60.
The Magistrates’ Association is calling on the Government to introduce legislation that will allow magistrates to stay on past age 70 if they wish to. The most senior justices, who chair court hearings, are in particularly short supply.
Altmann says: “Surely, such arbitrary age discrimination has no place in the modern workforce.We are reducing immigration levels and have an ageing population so we urgently need to update practices regarding employing older people. If someone is perfectly capable of working and wishes to do so, the law should not force them to stop. Those practices may have been acceptable in the 20th century, but 21st century realities demand change.
“Of course, if they are not fit to serve, then there has to be an impartial appraisal system to assess their ability, but that applies in other areas of working life and the judiciary should not be excluded.
“Those who make and oversee our laws should not be discriminated against on the grounds of age: Such thinking fails to recognise all the improvements achieved in health and life expectancy, it should no longer be acceptable to discriminate against the over-70s, any more than it would be to require people to retire just because they are of a particular race, religion or gender.”
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