Older workers get legal right to work beyond 65
Published on 29 September 2011 05:30 PM
Britain's older workers get the legal right to work beyond 65.
Is this the end of age discrimination in the workplace?
From October 1st Britain's older workers will be protected from bosses who want to fire them because they think they are too old.
The Default Retirement Age (DRA) which gave employers the right to sack staff who were 65 and over purely because of their age is being abolished.
Age UK hopes it will prove a major catalyst in ending age discrimination in the workplace which is still rife five years after regulations made it illegal.
The news comes as the latest employment figures show that the number of people aged 50 and over who have been out of work for two years or more has passed 100,000 for the first time - virtually double the figure for the same period in 2009. The statistics also reveal that the proportion of over 50s facing long term unemployment is greater than for any other age group, highlighting the impact of age discrimination in the workplace.
Research shows that many line managers - responsible for day to day workplace practice - are still prejudiced against older workers despite official company policy.
Another study found that only one in six bosses believes their business is equipped to deal with greater numbers of older workers - a potentially devastating finding in a country where the workforce is ageing.
The Default Retirement Age (DRA) was introduced in 2006 at the same time as regulations (Employment Equality (Age) Regulations) intended to stop age discrimination in the workplace. But the impact of the regulations was undermined by the DRA which is finally being abolished after a long campaign by Age UK.
Age UK's director of charity, Michelle Mitchell said, 'The end of the Default Retirement Age is a victory for older workers who for too long have been consigned to the scrapheap for no reason other than prejudice.
There is still a long way to go before older workers are treated as equals in the workplace. We have seen a very small improvement over the last five years but, as the statistics show, not nearly enough. We hope that, by taking away the arbitrary 'best before' date for employers, attitudes towards older workers will quickly evolve to look at their skills and experience, not their date of birth.
'With an ageing population traditional rigid ideas about retirement are changing. Many people will want to work longer for personal or financial reasons and prejudice should not lock them out of the workplace.
'The government must continue to work with employers and trade groups to highlight the benefits of hiring older workers. And that message must trickle down to line managers who are responsible for day to day hiring and management.'
Particularly worrying is the increase in the number of older people who have been out of work for two years or more. Michelle Mitchell said, 'Older workers must be given improved access to training and back to work support to maximise their skills and appeal to employers. Otherwise, employers have an excuse to overlook a significant sector of the population when it comes to staffing.'
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Notes to editors
1. Department for Work and Pensions research (DWP Research Report no 682 July 2010) found that there had been a slight improvement in age-neutral treatment of employees and jobseekers, but there was still a long way to go before discrimination was eliminated.
2. Research by Professor Flynn of Middlesex University found that line managers' interpretation of employer policies around retirement is crucial. See ‘the United Kingdom government's ‘business case' approach to the regulation of retirement', Ageing Society, vol.30 p.421-443
3. ONS figures published on 14 September 2011 show that 380,000 people aged over 50 were unemployed. Of those more than 100,000 had been out of work for more than two years. 41.7 percent of all out of work over 50s were long term unemployed - a higher proportion than for any other age group.
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Age UK is the new force combining Age Concern and Help the Aged, dedicated to improving later life.
We provide free information, advice and support to over five million people; commercial products and services to over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and well being, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle. We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI (together the Age UK Family), our local Age UK partners in England and local Age Concerns. We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.
Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they have formed the Age UK Group ("we"). Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity's trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity).
Media contact: Mallary Gelb
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