Equality and Human Rights Commission calls for default retirement age to be scrapped

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

The call from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) comes as the House of Lords are expected to debate an amendment to the Equality Bill later today – which if accepted would scrap the default retirement age (DRA).

The EHRC has also called for the extension of the right to request flexible working to all, the overhaul of employer recruitment practices to prevent discrimination, and improved training and development.

The EHRC said the economy would be the “big winner” if these measures were accepted by the government. Research by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research found extending working lives by 18 months would inject £15bn into the economy.

Margaret Prosser, deputy chair of the EHRC, said: “This is about developing a way of working that is based on the demographics of today’s populations and moving away from systems established when people died not long after reaching state pension age and women were supported by their husbands.

“Radical change is what older Britons are telling us needs to happen for them to stay in the workforce. Employers with a focus on recruiting and retaining older workers on flexible working arrangements are telling us it makes good business sense, allowing them to recruit and retain talent while meeting the flexible needs of their customers.”

Prosser added removing the DRA and increasing flexible working for older staff would help to address the “skills exodus” during the recession.

“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,” she said.

“Our research shows that to provide real opportunity to older workers, abolishing the DRA needs to be accompanied by a concerted drive by government, employers and agencies to meet the health, caring and work needs of the over-50s to enable them to remain in the workplace. Greater flexibility can help to deliver this.”

The EHRC’s announcement follows its survey of more than 1,400 men and women aged 50 to 75, which revealed 24% of men and 64% of women plan to keep working beyond the state pension age.

The survey also found twice as many people aged over 50 wanted to have job promotions rather than to slow down.

In total, 85% of people not working and over the state pension age said greater availability of part-time or flexible jobs would help them gain a job.

Three out of five older workers said they were as physically capable now to perform their jobs as when younger.

The EHRC has said it will work closely with employers to develop guidance for organisations to implement non-discriminatory recruitment practices.

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