Britain may scrap fixed retirement age

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Herald file picture.
Herald file picture.

Older workers in the UK will be able to continue in their jobs well into their 70s, 80s and even 90s, under proposals published today to scrap the national retirement age.

The call by MPs and equality groups to end workplace discrimination for pensioners is supported by new findings which show that the majority of older Britons do not want to give up jobs and careers when they reach 65.

By extending the retirement age by 18 months Britain's stuttering economy could be boosted by £15bn. Today the House of Lords will debate an amendment to the Equality Bill which seeks to abolish the national retirement age.

The move to reform the law is supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) which says the case for abolition has been made and if implemented would enrich the lives of millions of pensioners.

Although ministers have pledged to review the retirement age, it is not thought anything will happen before the election.

Baroness Margaret Prosser, deputy chair of the EHRC, said ministers could show their commitment to pensioners by supporting the amendment to the Equality Bill: "Radical change is what older Britons are telling us needs to happen for them to stay in the workforce.

"Britain has experienced a skills exodus during the recession and as the economy recovers we face a very real threat of not having enough workers n a problem that is further exacerbated by the skills lost by many older workers being forced to retire at 65."

She added: "This is about developing a way of working that is based on the demographics of today's populations and moving away from systems established when people died not long after reaching state pension age and women were supported by their husbands."

Many older people not only expressed a wish to work beyond 65 but need to keep their jobs to meet continued financial commitments. According to the EHRC research nearly one in ten 70-75 year-olds are still financially supporting their children. Under the EHRC policy, Working Better, the Commissioners will address the chronic under employment, low-paid employment and low income experienced by older Britons.

Older workers told the EHRC that flexibility in hours and locations was crucial to keeping them in the workforce longer as they aimed to balance caring responsibilities and health needs with work. Eighty-five per cent of people not working and over the state pension age say greater availability of part-time or flexible jobs would help them gain a job.

However, women pensioners are more likely to take up the chance to work beyond 65 than men. A quarter of men and two-thirds of women interviewed by the EHRC say they want to keep working beyond the state retirment age.

Researchers suggested this was because men, who have worked in higher paid jobs for longer, will be entitled to bigger pensions than woman. And although many men reaching retirement age want to give up full-time work they expressed an interest in part-time and flexible employment.

The Government says it is reviewing the case for the lifting of retirement barriers to working. Labour has already said it would raise the retirement age by one year to 66 in 2026. The Tories have pledged to do the same but 10 years sooner in 2016.

The state pension age is 60 for women and 65 for men. It will rise to 65 for both men and women by 2020. The pensions gender disparity means that women can claim pensions five years before men but can't be forced to retire by an employer until they are 65.

Last year Help the Aged and Age Concern lost their court battle to end the default retirement age. But the judge, Mr Justice Blake, made it clear that he had only found in the Government's favour on the grounds that they had brought forward a review to 2010C and it was highly likely that the default retirement age would change soon.

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