Why minister says ageism law will be good for firms

Minister for Pensions Ian McCartney urges the HR profession to consult with
the Government to help develop effective laws to tackle age discrimination in
the workplace. He talked exclusively to Ben Willmott about the key issues

Q Does more need to be done to encourage employers to be ready for the
2006 deadline for the abolition of compulsory retirement?

A "We will be implementing legislation based on the EU
Employment Directive to tackle age discrimination in employment, and this will
be in place by 2006.

"Retirement is covered by the directive. However, it is not the case
that this directive requires the total abolition of retirement ages. Retirement
is a key area on which we need to gain views from employers and employees
during our consultation process.

"We will be consulting with employers, individuals and interested
organisations to identify best practice on the issue of retirement age, seeking
to balance what is best for both employers and employees.

"As this is an extremely complex area for legislation, we are planning
to hold two consultations. The first, at the end of this year, will aim to
raise awareness and discuss options and issues openly and in detail.

"The second consultation is likely to begin in the second half of 2002,
drawing on the result of the first exercise and incorporat-ing the government’s
initial proposals for introducing legislation to prevent age

Q What should HR departments do to prepare for the legislation?

A "They should be seeking to get actively engaged in the
consultation process and consider if their current practices are fair.
Information on the consultation process and guidance on good practice will be
available on the new Age Positive website, which is due to be launched in the
near future. (The website address will be: www.agepositive.gov.uk)

"The consultation is being co-ordinated by the Department of Trade and
Industry and a consultation document is due to be launched in December."

Q Which occupations should be exempt from the retirement ruling?

A "We will be asking a specific question in the consultation on
whether an earlier age of retirement should apply to some sectors and on what

Q How important will older workers become in helping to overcome skills

A "Older workers are a very important and often forgotten
resource. In the near future, there will be 2 million fewer working-age people
under 50.

"More than 36 per cent of the labour force is aged over 45. In another
nine years, almost 40 per cent will be in that age group.

"By comparison, by 2010, 16- to 24-year-olds will make up only 17 per
cent of the workforce.

"A third of people aged from 50 to state pension age are inactive or
displaced from the labour market. This is alarmingly high.

"However, we are turning the tide. From 1997 to 2000, the employment
rate for the over-50s rose faster than for all of working age groups to reach
67 per cent.

"We are making progress, and employers are increasingly realising the
benefits older people bring. The message is clear – employers and the country
cannot afford to waste the skills and experience of our older workers."

Q Should employers contribute to stakeholder pension schemes – would this
help the low take-up of the schemes by staff?

A "Surveys have shown that if an employer is willing to
contribute to a stakeholder pension then that increases the number of employees
who would take one out.

"The Government has no plans to make it compulsory for employers to
contribute to employees’ stakeholder pensions.

"It is, however, hard to predict what might happen in the future."

The ageism agenda

December 2001

Consultation to raise awareness on ageism and retirement

Autumn 2002

Government proposals for introducing age discrimination law

January 2006

EC directive to abolish compulsory retirement and ageism

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