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‘Scrap default retirement age’ urges senior MP

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Labour Deputy Leader Harriet Harman has called for the “arbitrary” default retirement age to be abandoned as the public’s opposition to the scheme begins to swell.

Under current law, an elderly worker can see their employment terminated at 65 without redundancy payments, regardless of their desire to continue working. But Ms Harman has called for a “massive policy change” that would see workers continuing in employment till they feel ready to claim their pensions.

In 2009, the High Court ruled that the default retirement age, enforced by the government in 2006, was in line with the European Commission’s Directive against age discrimination, but conceded that there was a “compelling case” for change in law.

Ms Harman has now thrown her political weight behind the argument and supported disgruntled views that retirement should be a personal rather than a government decision.

Addressing supporters at the Age Concern and Help the Aged charities, Ms Harman claimed: “People are remaining active and healthy well into their older years. But at the moment there is no legal backing for you if you want to stay at work, so what we are proposing is a massive public policy change.”

“The retirement age is arbitrary; it bears no relation to people’s ability. Think of people running their own business – they do not shut up shop suddenly when they reach the age of 65.”

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has moved quickly to support Ms Harman’s views, claiming that: “Nearly 80% of small firms responding to our survey said they do not use the default retirement age for their staff and 76% believe that retirement should be based on a mutual decision between the employee and employer.”

“However, businesses need to be able to make decisions about their workforce without the threat of expensive tribunals from employees who are unable to work because of age-related issues. The ability to let someone go because of ill-health should be made sacrosanct for those employers,” said FSB National Chairman, John Wright.

A review of retirement laws has already been brought forward to 2010 but employers have constantly challenged opposition views, fearful of widespread litigation from those previously forced to retire.

The British Chambers of Commerce believes that adequate rules were introduced by the government years before and that employees just need time to adjust to new policies.


Written by Andrew Hodges

January 17, 2010 at 5:17 pm

Posted in Comment, LinkedIn

Tagged with , ,

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