international employment law firm alliance L&E Global

Ireland: Supreme Court Rejects Appeal of Revenue Sheriff Relating to Mandatory Retirement Age

In Mallon v Minister for Justice (2024), the SC rejected an appeal of the 2022 High Court ruling in favour of the State on the mandatory retirement of a County Sheriff.  The SC concluded that a retirement age of 70 for Revenue Sheriffs met a legitimate objective and was not “generally” disproportionate.

The SC referred to CJEU jurisprudence regarding recognised legitimate aims as follows:

i) promoting the employment of younger people and facilitating their entry into the labour market

ii) promoting the access of young people to the professions

iii) establishing an age structure that balances younger and older workers

iv) sharing employment between the generations

v) improving personnel management by enabling efficient planning for departure and recruitment of staff

vi) preventing possible disputes concerning employees’ fitness to work beyond a certain age

vii) avoiding employers having to dismiss employees who are no longer capable of working, which may be humiliating for the employee

viii) standardising retirement ages for professionals in the public service


EU Member States have a large amount of discretion in terms of choosing legitimate aims and defining the way in which those legitimate aims are achieved.

The SC ruling also moves away from the 2008 ruling in Donnellan v Minister for Justice, which was popular amongst those in favour of ‘individual assessments’ in applying retirement ages.  The SC found that it is reasonable to adopt mandatory retirement rules, which are generally applicable without any requirement for individual capacity assessment.

The SC found that a mandatory retirement age in this instance was justified and was an effective way of achieving intergenerational fairness and avoiding difficulties in the workplace related to the health and capacity of employees.

Mallon is a helpful ruling for employers as it confirms that a difference in treatment directly based on age that is objectively and reasonably justified by a legitimate aim does not require individual assessment and that such mandatory limits can be set in relation to defined groups based on general probabilities of age, health and competence, as opposed to individual characteristics on an individual assessment.

The main takeaway from the SC ruling in Mallon is that an employer need not justify subjecting an individual employee to a general mandatory retirement age.