Over 65s are to get the same rights to unfair dismissal and redundancy payments as younger workers under new measures to outlaw age discrimination in the workplace.
The new measures, published in draft today, are the final stage of implementing the European Employment Directive. With the approval of Parliament, the regulations are due to come into force on 1 October 2006.
The draft regulations, which will not affect the age at which people can claim their state pension, will:
- ban age discrimination in terms of recruitment, promotion and training;
- ban all retirement ages below 65 - except where objectively justified; and
- remove the current upper age limit for unfair dismissal and redundancy rights.
They will also introduce:
- a duty for employers to consider an employee's request to continue working beyond retirement; and
- a requirement for employers to give written notification to employees at least six months in advance of their intended retirement date. This will allow people to plan for their retirement.
Trade and industry secretary, Alan Johnson, said: "Individuals should have the choice to carry on working if they want to. This is not about forcing people to work longer, it is about freedom to choose.
"Equally, to thrive in a competitive market British business increasingly bases its employment and training decisions on talent not age. Employers know that they cannot afford to ignore the skills of any worker - young or old.
"People need to be able to plan for their future and retirement should not come as an unexpected surprise. The duty for employers to give at least six months' notice will help individuals make informed decisions about retiring."
Reacting to the announcement, Sam Mercer, director of the Employers Forum on Age (EFA), said: "The government has set out to reassure UK plc about age regulations by introducing a default age for retirement and by allowing employers to use age criteria in limited circumstances.
"However, trying to prove age is an essential requirement in the workplace will be difficult and costly, and the default retirement age will cause as many problems as it solves."
The EFA believes that age proposals still leave significant areas of concern for employers, including:
- Planned retirement process: employers will have to follow a set formal process to manage retirement. Employers fear added