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CJEU decides on the issue of different retirement age between female and male farmers

April 18th 2013

The Court of Justice of the EU decides that different treatment regarding retirement age between female and male farmers cannot be justified as EU law precludes that comparable situations be treated differently without objective justification.

On 11th of April 2013, the CJEU delivered a judgment in a case referred by the Nejvyšší správní soud (Supreme Administrative Court, Czech Republic). The case was about Mrs Soupuková, a farmer and mother of two children who reached retirement age and applied to the Czech authorities for payment of early retirement support. It has to be noted that the EU encourages early retirement of farmers who are 55 years old or over but not yet of normal retirement age. In this way, retired farmers can receive support from the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF) for a maximum period of 15 years and if the recipient of the support is also paid a normal retirement pension, the amount of the latter will be deducted from the support. According to Czech law, normal retirement age for men is higher than it is for women and furthermore for women it depends on the number of children they have raised.. Mrs Soupuková applied to the Czech authorities for payment of early retirement support, the amount of which was higher than her Czech old-age pension but her application was refused on the ground that she had already reached normal retirement age. Since she considered herself a victim of discrimination on the grounds of sex, Mrs Soupuková brought an appeal before the Czech courts. The Supreme Administrative Court asked the Court of Justice whether EU law allows, for the grant of early retirement support, normal retirement age to be determined differently for applicants, depending on their gender and number of their children.

The Court noted in its judgment that the support in question financed by the EAGGF is an instrument of the Common Agricultural Policy and not a social security benefit. Therefore, despite the fact that the definition of normal retirement age in the context of the grant of early retirement support, in the absence of harmonisation at EU level, falls within the competence of the Member States, in this particular case they may not rely on the difference in treatment that they are authorised to retain when defining retirement age in the field of social security. Member States are required to respect the principles of equal treatment and non-discrimination and to prohibit any discrimination on grounds of gender. The Court also observed that the different treatment between elderly female farmers and elderly male farmers cannot be justified as EU law precludes that comparable situations be treated differently without objective justification. In this particular case, the Court decided that the objectives can be achieved without Member States resorting to discriminatory treatment.

You can read the full text of the judjment here