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Need for generational change acknowledged

November 2010 - Corporate & Commercial. Legal Developments by Norrbom Vinding Law Firm, member of ius laboris.

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The Advocate General did not believe that Bulgarian provisions on compulsory retirement of university professors are incompatible with the prohibition on age discrimination in EU law.

National provisions on compulsory retirement ages do not necessarily conflict with EU law if they are intended to ensure a fair allocation of employment opportunities between generations. This is the reasoning behind the Advocate General's opinion to the European Court of Justice in this case.  

In Bulgaria, universities are allowed to terminate the employment of university professors when they turn 65. Universities are also allowed to extend their employment for 1 year at a time, subject to a maximum period of 3 years. As a result, professors are compulsorily retired between the ages of 65 and 68.   A professor brought proceedings in Bulgaria because he felt discriminated against. The court made a preliminary reference to the ECJ to clarify if the Bulgarian provisions are compatible with the prohibition against age discrimination in EU law.  

Justified by legitimate aim
The Bulgarian government explained that the national provisions are intended to ensure a fair allocation of employment opportunities between generations in order to allow also young people to obtain a university professorship.   In his opinion, the Advocate General said that the Bulgarian provisions are compatible with EU law. Although university professors aged 65 or more may be treated less favourably than other employees as a result of the provisions, ensuring a fair allocation of employment opportunities between generations is a legitimate aim. The Advocate General also noted that the age limits in question do not represent a disproportionate measure, for one thing because the professors are entitled to pension on retirement.


Norrbom Vinding notes:

  • that the Advocate General's opinion is in line with ECJ case law, which has shown a considerable reluctance to overturn national provisions on compulsory retirement if they are intended to safeguard legitimate employment objectives; and
  • that if the ECJ's ruling follows the Advocate General's opinion, it will reaffirm the compatibility with EU law of the Danish provisions on compulsory retirement in the Danish Anti-Discrimination Act.

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