Default retirement age scrapping fears must be addressed by next government

The next government has been urged to address HR chiefs’ concerns over scrapping or raising the default retirement age (DRA) after an exclusive poll has revealed that three-quarters of the profession do not want to see the legislation changed.

Some 72% of HR professionals do not want the DRA ditched or raised for fear that it will force firms to pay pension contributions for longer, impede succession planning, and reduce workforce capability, a survey of 189 HR heads by IRS, published exclusively by XpertHR, has found.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has backed calls from equality campaigners that whoever should take the helm in the next parliament should provide clear guidance to employers about how to implement expected changes to the DRA, whether the cut-off age of 65 is raised by a few years or the legislation is removed altogether.

Dianah Worman, diversity adviser at the CIPD, told Personnel Today: “The [next] government needs to find out what challenges HR are still facing and then give ideas and guidance about how to change and move forward. We need to appease these fears through more advice.”

Employers’ groups should ramp up efforts to help employers understand why the DRA was outdated, she added. “We have to go hard at promoting the reason for changing, providing guidance about how to change and refreshing approaches to employment policies and practices.”

Worman conceded there was a “reluctance to change” from employers. But firms should ensure their performance management policies were robust enough to manage older staff out of the business if they lacked capability or redeploy them to more suitable roles, she said.

Rachel Krys, director of the Employers’ Forum on Age, said one of the biggest HR fears, which centred around how to let go of staff whose performance diminished with age, was unfounded. However, she said: “Employers need to feel safe that they can have open conversations with employees and not feel that exposes them to tribunal claims.

“What employers would benefit from is guidance on how to have those conversations and the do’s and don’ts of having those conversations with employees.”

Employers that have already scrapped the DRA, such as Asda, McDonald’s and Nationwide, had seen productivity and staff engagement increase, Krys said.

Last year, a judge in the long-running Heyday case ruled the DRA was not unlawful but there was a “compelling” case for it’s removal at 65.

Personnel Today has long been campaigning to ditch the DRA, and all three main political parties have committed to either raising or scrapping it.

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