Page last updated at 11:42 GMT, Monday, 25 January 2010

Equality Commission calls for over-65s to keep working

Elderly man working in Asda
Some employers encourage people to work beyond 65

People should be allowed to work beyond the age of 65 and with more flexible hours, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has said.

In the UK, workers can see their employment end at 65 even if they do not want to retire.

The commission wants ministers to scrap the retirement age, saying it is out of date and discriminates against people who want to carry on working.

The government has promised a review of the law.

The commission's deputy chairman Lady Prosser said it made good business sense in a recession to recruit and retain older talent.

Currently, an employer can legally sack a worker when they reach 65.

Radical change is what older Britons are telling us needs to happen for them to stay in the workforce
Lady Prosser, Equality and Human Rights Commission deputy chairman

But with the state pension age set to rise to 66 in 2024 and 67 a decade later, the commission says retirement law is outdated and employers should extend flexible working.

In a survey by the commission of 1,500 over-50s, 62% of women and 59% of men said they wanted to continue working beyond pension age.

Two-thirds said they were fit for work and cited job satisfaction and financial necessity as reasons to carry on.

Baroness Prosser said: "Radical change is what older Britons are telling us needs to happen for them to stay in the workforce.

"Britain has experienced a skills exodus during the recession and as the economy recovers we face a very real threat of not having enough workers - a problem that is further exacerbated by the skills lost by many older workers being forced to retire at 65."

'I want to carry on'

Some companies, including Asda, already encourage people to continue working after 65.

One employee, Kalpene Acharya, 57, said she wanted to keep earning.

"I would like to work in this environment. If my health supports that, definitely, I would like to work until 70," she said.

The threat of enforced retirement at 65 is totally unacceptable and the sooner it is scrapped, the better
Lynne Featherstone,
Liberal Democrat spokeswoman

Andrea Murray from the Equality and Human Rights Commission told BBC Radio 4's Today programme most of the people surveyed had to keep working for financial reasons.

She said allowing people to stay in employment past the current retirement age would also have health benefits for some and provide a boost to the economy.

"Older workers can put a lot of spending power into the economy and they have existing skills.

"They are not necessarily in the same entry-level jobs that younger people are going for, although initiatives are needed for younger people as well," she said.

However David Yeandle, spokesman for manufacturers' organisation the Engineering Employers' Federation (EEF), advised caution and said current government policy on the matter was "working very well".

He said: "The government should undertake a proper, thorough, evidence-based review rather than make decisions on the basis of just one report."

For me it is not a question of whether I want to work on after 65, I have to.
M Jones, Wales

Mr Yeandle said EEF members wanted a default retirement age and the right to request to continue working to remain government policy, as it benefited both employers and individuals.

The Department for Work and Pensions said its long-term aim was to "consign fixed retirement ages to the past".

It said a review of the default retirement age had been brought forward to this year and businesses and individuals were currently providing evidence on the impact of retirement ages.

The Liberal Democrat equalities spokeswoman, Lynne Featherstone, said the commission had "got it right".

She added: "The Liberal Democrats have tabled an amendment to the Equality Bill that would end this arbitrary injustice - now the government must act.

"The threat of enforced retirement at 65 is totally unacceptable and the sooner it is scrapped, the better."

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