Encouraging older staff works wonders for M&S

Marks & Spencer has seen a massive increase in the number of staff working beyond 65 since it scrapped a set retirement age in 2002, the high street retailer has revealed.

The company, which last year disclosed a pensions deficit of £585m, now has 1,000 employees over the age of 65 working without an arranged retirement age. This is 40 times the number of staff who first signed up when M&S introduced the policy three years ago.

Sally Humpage, employment policy manager for M&S, said changing the guidelines suited the retailer, where half of its 60,000 in-store workforce is over the age of 40.

“We treat our older workers like anyone else,” she told delegates at the ‘Age at Work’ conference, hosted by the Employers Forum on Age in London last week. “Many of them enjoy the social aspect of work.”

At present, employees at M&S over the age of 65 can only work and draw their pension at the same time if they joined the company before 1989.

However, this will be amended next year so that all staff are offered the flexibility of balancing their pension with part-time work, Humpage said.

Staff will also be able to continue contributing to their pension when they reach 65, which will, undoubtedly, mean a further increase in numbers, she added.

Scrapping the set retirement age is good for both the employers and the staff, according to Michael O’Donnell, chief medical officer at health insurance firm UnumProvident.

“People who give up work below the age of 60 generally die earlier than those who carry on working,. Keeping active delays ageing. We need to start making retirement seem less desirable,” he said.

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