A growing number of people think traditional retirement will no longer be possible in the future, according to recent research. The Government’s plans to scrap mandatory retirement at 65 will certainly enable more people to work into their late sixties and seventies, with the potential to never give up work.
However, the latest official unemployment figures showed redundancies were higher among over-50s than any other age group, and campaign groups have long argued that older workers find it much harder to re-enter the labour market once they have lost their jobs.
Making it illegal for employers to retire someone purely because of their age should help to reduce a stubborn workplace myth that all older workers are less capable or less productive, or unable to cope with change. I for one feel fitter and sharper now in my 60s than when I was much younger and I know many people are the same as me. In this age of longer life expectancy and flexible working practices, it makes sense to enable people to work into their late 60s and beyond.
But employers are quire rightly concerned by some grey areas that persist with removing the default retirement age. We know the legislation will be scrapped in full from October next year, but we are yet to see the details of how the system will work. In particular, where a 65-year-old worker is no longer carrying out the requirements of their job properly, employers want to know how they can ask that worker when and whether they are planning to leave. In the absence of full guidelines on how to handle this difficult conversation – free from the threat of litigation – employers will worry that some older workers could cling onto their jobs while blocking opportunities for younger people to move up the ladder. Organisations are anxious that tried and tested methods of succession planning will go out of the window.
Another thing employers must be careful to protect against is the possibility that members of staff who continue to work past age 65 may experience age discrimination from other workers or even managers. Those who want to continue working and who add value to businesses should be respected and admired, rather than working while constantly looking over their shoulders.
So it is crucial for employers to promote an open and meritocratic working environment, where all employees are judged and rewarded on their performance, not their age. If older members of staff fear dismissal, purely because of their advancing years, that can only be bad for a business – they might stop taking breaks or holidays in an effort to protect their jobs and that, in turn, will lead to them burning out. The fear of being left on the employment scrap heap should not be forced upon loyal staff who continue to make a great contribution to companies.
Most businesses will probably be grateful for the benefits slightly older and wiser workers can bring. But they must keep an open mind when it comes to the over 65s.
Perhaps one way to retain the services of older workers, and manage the payroll at the same time, is to allow older employees more flexible working hours so they can share their wisdom and experience on a part-time basis. Employers could also consider moving older workers into different roles that are more suited to their skills and experience.
It is up to employers to find a strategy that works for their business, but they should be prepared and excited by the potential of key workers carrying on past 65.
Duncan Bannatyne is the founder and chairman of Bannatyne Fitness and a regular dragon on the BBC2 program 'Dragon's Den'.
Article from The Telegraph