Equality Bill amendment on default retirement age is scrapped again

An Equality Bill amendment calling for the default retirement age (DRA) to be scrapped by the end of next year was withdrawn for the second time yesterday after the Leader of the House of Lords said the government would take action on the DRA “as soon as reasonably practical”.

Liberal Democrat peers Lord Wallace and Lord Lester had called for a ‘sunset clause’ to be added to the Bill so that, if the government failed to remove the DRA of 65 by 2011, it would be abolished through the equality legislation.

But, following the reassurances from the Leader of the House, it was withdrawn. Lester was forced to withdraw a previous amendment to the Bill calling for the DRA to be removed immediately, because the Lords ruled they should wait for the government review on its usage, due this summer.

Rachel Dineley, head of the diversity and discrimination unit at law firm Beachcroft, said it was important that time be given for employers to adapt to any change to the DRA, warning that a failure to do so would inevitably lead to confrontation and litigation, which could otherwise be avoided.

“It will undoubtedly take time to put in place the various measures that many employers may need to take to cater for what will be, in some respects, a radical development in employment practice,” she said.

“There is a great deal to consider, including such issues as the potential cost – for example, insurance benefits – for those working beyond 65, and performance management in respect of those who want to work on when they would otherwise have been graciously left to retire.”

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