Default retirement age should be scrapped in Equality Bill say HR chiefs

HR directors have backed calls for forced retirement at 65 to be scrapped using the Equality Bill on the condition that employers receive at least one year’s notice of the abolition.

With the government intent on getting the Equality Bill onto the statute books before the general election, HR professionals called for the removal of the Default Retirement Age (DRA) to be written into the legislation, but for the effect of this amendment to be delayed to enable employers to adjust their policies and workforce planning.

An Equality Bill amendment pushing for the new legislation to spell an end to the DRA is due to be debated in the House of Lords today.

Susan Campbell, head of HR and development at utility company Business Stream, told Personnel Today employers would need at least a year to prepare for the scrapping of the DRA.

She said: “I don’t think for a lot of companies it will be enough time to implement the changes if it came in in October. It should be a delayed scrapping through the Equality Bill – it should be delayed for at least a year.”

She added the Equality Bill was the right way to dispose of the retirement regulation because it was the government’s intention to use the Bill to compile all equality legislation in one place.

Colin Game, head of HR for line upgrades, projects and maintenance at London Underground, went further and said employers would need the Equality Bill amendment to delay implementation until 2012.

But one HR director of an NHS trust in the North West, who asked to remain anonymous, said the organisation was currently reliant on the DRA to cut staffing levels, but that they would support the delayed implementation of the amendment once the financial crisis had passed.

The HR director said: “Over the next few years we will have to cut back on staffing numbers because of budget issues. [The DRA] is a useful mechanism for us for the future.

“[Ending the DRA] could be in the Equality Bill but with a time delay for once we are through the financial crisis in five years’ time. It’s useful to us now.”

However, another public sector HR professional, who also wanted to remain anonymous, opposed the abolition of the DRA altogether, because of their organisation’s dependence on the regulation to cut jobs.

They said: “My organisation’s stance is we are looking to reduce staffing numbers so we have been using the DRA as a means to lose staff, so we wouldn’t welcome [the scrapping of the DRA].”

Meanwhile, the equality watchdog has called on the government to scrap forced retirement at 65 to create more employment opportunities for older workers.

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