Unemployed people in their 50s are finding their desperate hunt for a job ‘made worse’ by a key Government rule change, a damning report warned yesterday.

Before the change, a boss could ask a worker to leave from the age of 65, known as the ‘default retirement age’, as long as they had been given six months’ notice.

Since October 2011, no worker can be asked to leave simply because they have reached the traditional retirement age of 65, which means they can stay into their 70s, 80s and beyond.

The report, published yesterday by the Age and Employment Network, reveals the devastating impact on the new rules on a generation of unemployed people in their 50s.

Chris Ball, the network’s chief executive, said: ‘From the perspective of some jobseekers, it may appear that ending the default retirement age has been dysfunctional.’

Its poll of around 800 unemployed people aged 50 and over said: ‘It is clear that many felt it had not made life easier for older jobseeker. Some felt it had actually made things worse.’

One man in his late 50s said: ‘The removal of the default retirement age has made matters considerably worse.

‘Employment protection works against employers being willing to take a risk on older staff who they cannot be confident of removing easily if their performance declines due to age.’

A woman in her late 50s said the law change has been ‘counter-productive’.

She added: ‘It makes employers reluctant to take on older workers that they may never get rid of.

‘Those jobseekers who may have no option but to consider early retirement are left with few financial means of support.

‘I am living on my life savings that I had intended fall back on when I retired in ten years’ time.’

The pressure on unemployed people in their fifties and sixties is intense, particularly as the Government is also increasing the age at which they can start to receive their State pension.

At present, the State pension age is 65 for men and 61 and six months for women. 

But by 2020, it will be 66 for men and women, rising again to 67 by 2028 and will continue to rise to 68 and beyond with ministers planning to link the State pension age to life expectancy.

The report shows how people are working principally because they desperately need the money.

It states: ‘Asked why they wanted work, 89 per cent mentioned “financial need”, compared to just 54 per cent who said they enjoyed the social interaction from being in the workplace.

Tough times: Being unable to find a job after 50, many struggle to survive on their savings, as the number of long-term unemployed aged 50 and above continues to swell

It comes as official figures show the number of older people who have been unemployed for more than a year has increased sharply since the recession began in 2008.

At present, 177,000 people aged 50 and above have been unemployed for more than 12 months, compared to just 93,000 in 2008.

A boss can only get rid of an older worker if they can prove that a person is no longer competent to do their job - but such cases regularly end up in the tribunal courts and the decision is difficult to prove.

The scrapping of the default retirement age means the number of older workers is ballooning, with the majority continuing to work for their long-term employer.

More than 300,000 people who are aged 70 and above have a job, with many blaming the fact they are too poor to stop working, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The National Pensioners’ Convention, warns the majority are ‘ordinary, working-class people who are having to take jobs because they can’t make ends meet any other way.’

Article from Mail online