The mandatory retirement age (MRA) for judges is to be raised from 70 to 75 to deal with shortfalls in judicial recruitment, the government has decided.
A consultation run last year – which canvassed an alternative MRA of 72 – received more than 1,000 responses, mainly from judicial office-holders, and found overall support for 75.
The response paper published yesterday by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said: “As well as reflecting improvements in life expectancy, the retention of older experienced judicial office holders as a result of a higher MRA will have significant benefits to the supply of judicial resource and will provide a positive benefit for those who wish to continue sitting up to the age of 75, rather than having to retire at 70.
“In addition, our view is that a higher MRA could have a positive impact by attracting and promoting opportunities for individuals considering a judicial career later in life, such as those who may have had non-linear careers or taken career breaks to balance professional and family responsibilities.”
Salaried judges who wish to continue working until the age of 75, but are unable or unwilling to work full time, will be eligible to apply for more flexible working arrangements, including part-time working.
Alternatively, eligible salaried judges will continue to be able to apply to sit in retirement on a fee-paid, ad hoc basis, where there is an exceptional business need which cannot otherwise be met by recruitment or cross-deployment.
The legislation that will be introduced to facilitate the new MRA will also extend similar flexibility to fee-paid judges.
Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland said he was “confident” that the increase would “provide the right balance between protecting the need to have a mandatory retirement age with the benefits to the justice system from retaining valuable expertise for longer and attracting a wider range of applicants”.
The MoJ estimates that raising the MRA to 75 could retain an average of 399 judges (excluding magistrates and coroners) a year across the courts and tribunals across the UK, some 5% of the total and 40% of the current recruitment programme for 1,000 vacancies.
It said there was no evidence that an increase in the MRA would impact adversely on public confidence in the judiciary.
It stressed, however, that the move was “not a specific response to the number of outstanding cases that have accrued since the start of the Covid pandemic”.