It was revealed this week that half of all those approaching retirement intend to carry on working when they reach their mid-sixties. A national study conducted by the government’s older workers’ champion, suggested that in the next few years, the number of over 65’s still working could leap from 1.2 million to 4.8 million. The study found that almost all of the over 50s who planned to continue working after the age of 65 considered looking into available part time roles to ease themselves slowly into retirement.
But what does all this mean for employers?
Since October 2011, it has been illegal for employers to set a retirement age. The default retirement age was scrapped so that people no longer automatically retired at 65. Employers therefore must ensure that older workers are treated with the same standards as other, younger employees, having an equal amount of time and money invested in their professional development as all other workers. It may also mean that additional training for older workers becomes imperative so that they can keep up with technological and other workplace changes.
A quarter of the over 50’s felt they were viewed less favourably than younger workers, while 15 per cent experienced age based discrimination in the workplace. The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against employees, job seekers and trainees because of their age. If an employee feels that they are being discriminated against because of their age, they may be within their rights to bring a claim to an employment tribunal.
When an employee is nearing the age of 65 and there is uncertainty around what their future plans may be, employers are well within their rights to politely ask them in a general way, what their future plans are and how they view their medium and long term plans. Any direct question such as “are you planning to retire in the near future?” are best avoided. If an employee indicates that they wish to retire, there is no problem in talking through time frames and working arrangements leading up to the retirement.
The national study carried out by the Government’s older workers’ champion also revealed that one in ten said that they did not want to leave work but felt that they were expected to. Most of the people surveyed were also unaware that they would no longer have to pay national insurance contributions once they hit state pensionable age. These findings highlight the important responsibility that employers have to ensure that their older workers are informed of their rights and that any decisions they make will be supported by the company. Issues around retirement can be approached during appraisals, one to one catch up meetings or during general every day conversations.
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