The end of forced retirement – today!

The 6th of April 2011 marks a milestone in the employment rights of older workers. Employers will no longer be able to issue forced retirement notices to their 65+ workers, meaning that for the first time employees in this age group will have the same legal protection as their younger colleagues.

Such a step has been needed for years, and can surely only be a positive move for the 900,000 people – and rising – who already work beyond age 65.  Chart 1 shows the upwards trend in people working at age 65 and above, and how this has increased by over 50 per cent going back to May 2005. While not everyone wants to continue to work after 65, for those who do the end of forced retirement will restore personal choice and economic independence, allowing people continue to build pension provision and benefit from the social networks that many workplaces bring.

Chart 1: numbers in employment aged 65+

So we congratulate the Government for sticking to their guns and ending this deeply unfair practice.

There have, however, been a couple of minor changes to the transitional arrangements. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills had originally proposed having a blanket end to forced retirement on 30 September 2011 i.e. within six months of the last notice-issuing day (yesterday). However, last minute changes to the transitional arrangements have meant that employers will still be able to give up to a years notice to their employees – providing they are 65 before October 2011– meaning workers could be forced out until April 2012. In addition, it will still be possible to agree an extension of up to a furher six months, meaning the final forced retirements could take place as far away as October 2012. This is disappointing for many, but for some it will be considered preferable to being forced out of work immediately.

So what’s likely to happen in the post-DRA world?

Of course the main impact is on the circa 100,000 people each year who are forcibly retired. All of these people will be able to continue working, should they choose to do so.

This is just one part of the Government’s policy objective of extending working lives, and along with other measures – most notably the raising of the State Pension Age – average retirement ages are likely to continue rising. At present, the average age at which men retire is 64.5 – below the State Pension Age – and for women it is 62. Both these have been continually rising for many years. It is therefore likely that this trend will continue, and probably be speeded up, leading to more older workers active in the labour market.

Employer representative groups have raised concerns over a potential surge in the increase in the number of age discrimination-related employment tribunal claims. However, we believe that this is far from a certainty.

It is in the interests of no-one that there are spurious discrimination claims being made. We therefore believe the Government should set out in greater detail what treatment is and isn’t discriminatory, giving both employers and employees a better knowledge of how to act around this potentially sensitive issue.

On a positive note, a side-effect of no longer having a mandatory retirement age could be improved management practices, with better dialogue between older workers and their employer. ACAS has produced guidelines on how to handle these future working/retirement planning discussions, but we believe that such discussions must be centred around the needs of the individual, not the employer, and the former must be under no obligation to reveal their future plans. Also, the discussions should not be tied to any particular age – managers should ideally be discussing future aspirations with employees of all ages. If a particular birthday triggers this process it will merely serve to maintain stigmas and negative stereotypes of older workers.

If conducted in an atmosphere of trust such discussions could be good for everyone.

We expect only a minority of employers to try and continue to use mandatory retirement. The vast majority – even those who do currently use the DRA on a widespread basis – we believe are likely to adjust their organisational policies and practices, and then simply get on with running their business, hopefully fully utilising their older workers rather than leaving them on the scrapheap.

In short, the Government needs to set the conditions to enable people to work longer, and support them – and employers – to make this a reality, for example through improving training opportunities. Removing the Default Retirement Age is a great first step, but to boost employment rates an even greater effort is needed.

12 thoughts on “The end of forced retirement – today!”

  1. I do not agree with the abolition of forced retirement. I have got a 19yr old daughter who left shool and went to college for 2 years, all the time trying to get part time work and every time getting turned down and rejected. With over 2.5m unemployed, try explaining to my daughter why she cant get a job because of all the over 65’s still working and come and see her tears when she gets another rejection e-mail IF the company she applies to bother to reply.

  2. Much as I feel sorry for youngsters like Mr France’s daughter, I embrace the government’s decision on keeping the over 65’s in their jobs. Most of these people are highly educated and experienced in whatever jobs they are doing. Has it ever occurred to Mr. France that his daughter, at the tender age of nineteen has no experience and may not even have the qualifications that the employers are looking for? There is no way an experienced solicitor, doctor, nurse, chef, teacher, driver, potter or cleaner is going to be chucked out of his job to let a half educated, inexperienced youngster take his job.What qualifications has this kid got? Bring it on Old Timers and continue doing what you are doing best!

    1. How dare you refer to my daughter in those terms, she is far from a half educated, inexperienced youngster. What gives you the right to insult people like that?

    2. I think that you are a little out of order, I left school with no qualifications and trained in my work …hence having the experiance of that certain job…How can you call this young lady …If she does not have the chance to work how can she get the experiance in a job. Must admit i find you a little uneducated with your comment, I think being a solicitor doctor nurse etc…needs qualifications that you get from collage and universities…which a lot of students cannot afford…I am 60 this year and am forced to work a few more years before i can have my state pension…I think its time the government gave the pensioners a rest instead of making them work till they drop, If pensioners want to work after retirement age that is up to them but I think that their pensions should be frozen until they finish work.

  3. Most of our 60+ year olds left school at 15 and learned their jobs by starting as ‘juniors’ or apprentices. Then worked their way up, often attending night school to get additional qualifications.

    About 30 years ago money was taken from job training grants to companies and given to education so that our teenagers were kept in school rather than train in a work environment. Employers were encouraged to engage graduates to do the jobs that would have previously been given to experienced workers. They would make mistakes that the experienced employes had to sort out for them and the Graduate would move on to another post claiming experience on their CV

    That system has failed to give this country the workforce it needs. . A combination of work experience and related education would be far more valuable for youngsters needing a step on the ladder of a career.

  4. A ludicrous policy. All that will happen is the younger generation will increasingly be workless while doddering old biddies and billies hog the jobs. Just watch the correlation graph after a year or so between employment of oldies and employment of the youngsters. I never see many 65 year old bricklayers clamouring to keep their jobs – as usual it will be the soft cushy office wallers that will remain – sitting on their inflatable ring cushions and taking up office space with their zimmers.

  5. Although it’s great that forced retirement is being ended, we should be concerned about the increasing numbers of people in their fifties who are being made redundant and struggling to find new jobs. Forced retirement may haave ended but enforced retirement may be the new issue! There’s a blog post about this here if you’re interested…

  6. I am surprised at the way AgeUK has used such emotive language in this article. Although some people do want to carry on in paid work in their senior years many others look forward to enjoying some time to do other things. I don’t consider that to be on the scrapheap! I find I agree with Geoffrey Alan. I am also surprised by the assertion that work is about the needs of the employee not the employer! I don’t think anyone was ever employed because an employer thought it would be a lovely thing to do for someone! And it’s insidious – how long before retirement is considered a luxury – I don’t want to carry on working forever – I’ve been at work since I was 16, when do I get to have fun whilst someone else pays for me!

  7. I was allowed to work on over 65, i am 66.
    I am being forced to retire just before October 1, despite business need to carry on, my own desire to carry on and my manager’s desire for me to carry on.
    This is an action being taken by the company affecting all over 65 and still working.
    Is this fairly standard across the country?
    Seems to be the reverse of the intended effect of the legislation

  8. I think that it is a disgusting some of the comments that have been made on here. Everyone is an individual and they should have a voice whether it is and older person or younger person. You should be entitled to have a say whether you wish to continue to work or not. My father is being force to retire after working for the one firm for 40 years. If the government give a decent state pension then he could retire but it is a joke how much pensioners have to live on. Let the MPs live on the state pension my parents have to and see how they could cope, there would be no luxuries after slaving all your days. At the same time feeling for the young people have a heart and respect for your elders, what is this country coming too. Remember we will get old one day and would like to have the respect.

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