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A Positively Ageing Workforce

And the opportunities for flexibility

The new Age Discrimination legislation that comes into force on 1 October 2006 is the UK's response to a European Directive on Equal Treatment in employment.

In summary, the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 do the following:

  • ban any discriminatory procedures in recruitment on the grounds of age - this includes workers at any age, not only older workers
  • outlaw age-related harassment in the workplace on the lines of current gender equality legislation
  • outlaw workplace benefits that are age-related
  • prevent training provision discriminating on grounds of age
  • remove the current age limits for unfair dismissal and redundancy rights
  • ban unjustified retirement ages below 65
  • set a default retirement age of 65, allowing companies to set retirement ages at 65 or above
  • give workers approaching 65 the "right to request" to continue working beyond this age.  As with the recent parental flexible working rights, the employer is obliged to "consider" this request.
    But there is no right to request flexible working associated - just a right to request continuing to work.
  • Retirement is kept under review after the official retirement date:  employers must give at least 6 months notice of their intention to retire the employee, and the worker has a continuing right to request to continue working. 

Why this, why now?

While these new regulations are motivated by fairness and a desire to end discrimination, they are also driven by the reality of living in an ageing society with an ageing workforce. 

With people now expecting to live more than 20 years beyond retirement age, longer working lives are necessary to pay for this, both in terms of state contributions and personal savings.

And a harsher reality is that 1 in 3 people out of work over the age of 50 never work again.  It is vital for the economy to remove the barriers to employment and self-employment for the over-50s

The good news is that people are fit and active for longer.  But do may people really want to work until they drop?

The answer is that if they had the financial security, most people would not want to carry on working at the same rate of intensity.  But many would like to carry on working, either at a less intense rate or doing something completely different.

The flexible options

Studies have shown that there is a high demand for flexible working options amongst the over 50s, and a high level of satisfaction amongst older workers who work this way.

Options which could suit many older workers - including those beyond official retirement age - include:

Part-time working Our staff consultations find that this is a relatively popular option for the over 45s.  The sticking point is often financial, including the impact on pensions.  We are likely to see a rise in part-time employment as n option for working beyond 65 and as an alternative to retirement.
Short-term contract working This could involve running or contributing to projects where their skills and experience are vital with the same company, or on a freelance or interim management basis
Flexible location working Doing some or all of former role from a home or local office. This can be particularly valuable for smaller firms needing to retain skills of a worker who wants to edge towards retirement and avoid commuting.
Seasonal working A good option in leisure and hospitality industries where older workers provide experience and stability which can rub off on younger casual workers.  Already common for older workers in rural and tourist industries.
Become a Silver Entrepreneur Many people over 50 would like to set up a business on their own, either using their career skills or setting off i a new direction.  It may involve downshifting to a more modest or tranquil lifestyle. Perhaps a cottage industry in a live/work home.
Any of the above options can help in providing an income stream while the new fledgling business finds its feet. 

In the media there have been some some dire warnings about the implications of the new laws.  But more enlightened employers will see a new context for retaining valuable skills in the company and saving costs on recruitment, while helping employees into a new age of balanced living.


The end of ageism at work?

We are told that a million firms may not be ready for the anti-ageist regulations coming into force on October 1st.

Here we review the regulations, and take a look at how employees and and individuals can respond positively to the new context.





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