The compulsory retirement age (or ‘default retirement age’ – DRA) is being phased out between 6 April and 1 October 2011. This means that employers will not be able to issue notifications for compulsory retirement using the DRA procedure (the last date an employee could have been given notice of retirement under the DRA was 5 April 2011). Having said this, individual employers will still be able to operate a compulsory retirement age provided they can objectively justify it. The changes do not affect an employee’s state pension age and entitlements, which may well be separate from the age at which they retire. [The new regulations are available from legislation.gov.uk].
The removal of the compulsory retirement age not only raises practical issues for employers in managing older workers, but also across the workforce more generally in a wide range of areas such as succession and workforce planning, performance management and ensuring consistency and fairness in policies and practices. Work-related health problems will also need to be addressed with an older workforce. These could include considerations to enhanced workplace design for office workers or a review of equipment designed to reduce the physical demands for those who undertake heavy manual handling as part of their role. It is important to remember that the removal of the DRA will have implications for all employees in terms of career expectations and advancement.
The removal of the DRA is an opportunity for employers to review practices and processes for managing employees and their performance fairly and in line with anti-discrimination legislation. Good people management is the best way to adapt to the removal of the DRA: talking to employees and allowing them opportunities to communicate openly and regularly about your expectations of them, their performance and future plans, is essential. Employees of all ages should be treated fairly and consistently.
According to Rachel Krys, Campaign Director of leading age campaigners:
“Growing numbers want to and have to work beyond 65. Outdated policies which prevent this group working increase the burden on the already creaking state pension provision and ignores the fact we are living longer and healthier lives.
“Employers without retirement ages experience a greater focus on performance, a reduction in recruitment costs and the retention of talent, whatever the age.”
Employers in small and medium-sized organisations can get guidance on the very particular health issues that may be experienced by older workers from the Health for Work Adviceline (www.health4work.nhs.uk) by calling 0800 0 77 88 44 during normal office hours. The website has a call-back form for calls outside office hours.