Government plans to abolish the default retirement age from October 2011 have been welcomed by employers, employers groups and UK unions as a victory for choice.
At the moment, employers are allowed to force staff to retire at the age of 65 without having to give a reason.
Andrew Groves, head of national resourcing at Yell, welcomed the change, telling Recruiter that the change could potentially help employers redress skills shortages.
However, he said that for this to happen employers would need to change their attitude first. “It will be tough for employers to overcome [their attitude], as for many their instinct is that younger people are faster paced and more aggressive about where they want to get to.”
Rachel Krys, campaign director of the Employers Forum on Age (EFA), says: “The EFA works with many companies who have removed the mandatory retirement age such as B&Q, Nationwide, JD Wetherspoon, BT, The Co-operative and M&S to name but a few; and they are already reaping the benefits. Age is not a proxy for ability.”
Chris Ball, chief executive of The Age and Employment Network (TAEN), adds: “This move can only be a first step. Many employers will need to adopt a totally new mindset… It will certainly mean providing opportunities to train or re-train and to work more flexibly and, crucially, actually recruiting people in their 50s and 60s where they may not have done so in the past.”
Welcoming the plans, TUC general secretary Brendan Barber says: “This is a welcome move. It cannot be right that workers lose their protection against arbitrary dismissal overnight because of their age.
“But we need to go further to give people real choice about how and when they retire with new rights for flexible working. This can end the retirement cliff-edge where people work full-time one day and stop work the next. Many would prefer a phased retirement.
“Not everyone wants to work longer and may not be fit enough to continue. Today’s move should be about choice, not an expectation that people will work longer so don’t need decent pensions.”
Employment relations minister, Ed Davey, said: “Older workers bring with them a wealth of talent and experience as employees and entrepreneurs. They have a vital contribution to make to our economic recovery and long-term prosperity.”
The CBI has said the move will create uncertainty.