Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Call for an end to the default retirement age

By Sunil Patel

A leading commission is calling for the default retirement age to be scrapped which will allow older people the option of working beyond 65 years old and free from age-based discrimination.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission have announced a new set of proposals which include abolishing the current retirement age and extending flexible working for all employees in the UK.

This will take place through a modernisation of current employer practices to include more flexible working for staff, and better training which will make it easier for people to work longer.

Baroness Margaret Prosser, deputy chair of the Equality and Human Rights commission, said, “Keeping older Britons healthy and in the workforce also benefits the economy broadly by decreasing welfare costs and increasing the spending power of older Britons.”

Today, the House of Lords will have the option of removing the default retirement age through the Equality Bill.

Extending the working life of the average Briton by 18 months could financially boost the UK economy by £15 billion, according to a study by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research(NIESR).

The report says 24 percent of men and 64 percent of women say they plan to keep working beyond the state pension age.

NIESR surveyed 1500 people aged 50 to 75 across the United Kingdom.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) have backed the commission’s proposals.

They say many small companies recognise the importance of older staff by the valuable skills and contribution they make.

John Wright, National Chairman at the FSB, said, "Nearly 80 percent of small firms responding to our survey said they do not use the default retirement age for their staff and 76 percent believe that retirement should be based on a mutual decision between the employee and employer.”

Many older Britons feel there needs to a sea-change in the attitudes of employers towards older workers, according to the report.

And small firms have no intention of adopting a blanket policy of forcing their staff into retirement at the age of 65 if they choose not to.

Katja Hall, the CBI’s Director of HR Policy, believes, the government needs to put forward clear guidance on their policy towards the default retirement age especially as so many businesses are struggling.

She said, “Having a default retirement age helps staff begin the process of deciding when it is right to retire and helps firms plan ahead with more confidence.

She added, “At the moment, anyone can ask to work beyond the age of 65 and their employer must consider their request.

Our research shows 81 percent of these requests are accepted, showing companies don’t want to lose good people, whatever their age.”

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