Employers could face a surge of age discrimination cases from workers wishing to stay on beyond the age of 65 if compulsory retirement ages are not properly justified, according to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. 

Age discrimination cases accounted for 14% of cases handled by the IHREC under the Employment Equality Acts last year.

The issue was highlighted recently when the Workplace Relations Commission ordered RTÉ to pay former broadcaster Valerie Cox €50,000 for forcing her to quit her role on "It Says in the Papers" when she turned 65.

Today, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission publishes "Guidelines on Retirement and Fixed Term Contracts", which is a new guide for employers and employees on fixed retirement ages, which can be illegal in some circumstances.

The commission document cites various reasons for people needing to work for longer, including pension shortfalls, housing costs and second families, while some just like their jobs.

Under Irish law, it is not illegal to fix a compulsory retirement age, provided there is "objective justification" or reasonable, proportionate grounds for the mandatory retirement age.

However, without objective justification, a compulsory retirement age can give rise to age discrimination claims.

The IHREC guidelines examine the rules around compulsory retirement ages, including what constitutes objective justification required to render them legitimate rather than illegal and discriminatory on age grounds.

IHREC Chief Commissioner Emily Logan said that attitudes to retirement are changing, not just because of changes in working conditions and pension arrangements, but also because of some people's desire to continue working for longer for personal or financial reasons.

She noted that the commission has consistently highlighted concerns over age-related discrimination in the workplace.

Ms Logan said it is now using its powers to proactively present guidance to support employees and employers in combating discrimination.

She stressed that people wishing to work for longer should be able to do so without being subjected to discrimination.

Ms Logan said the new guidelines are intended to help employers and employees to understand the legal standards governing retirement ages, and how to approach different working arrangements while avoiding discrimination claims.