Dr Ros Altmann, Director General of Saga, says calls by business leaders to delay the abolition of the Default Retirement Age should be ignored.
Dr Altmann said: “The Default Retirement Age Should have been abolished years ago. The timetable must certainly not slip. Ageism has no place in a modern labour market.
“Of course it is more convenient for employers to be able to just sack someone for being 65, but that is not fair on the workers themselves. It is also a huge waste of our national resources.
“Employers must judge workers fairly. People are not old or 'past it' at 65 any more. Of course some people are not fit to work, but that applies at much younger ages too and employers will have to adjust their attitudes and assess workers' skills objectively, not on the basis of old-fashioned prejudice. Most people still have enormous amounts to offer employers.
“Longer working lives are an essential element of overcoming our pensions crisis. The first baby-boomers reach age 65 in 2011 and the demographics mean millions more following in coming years.
“Their pensions have not worked out in the way they had expected, and they are still fit and healthy. They would much rather stay on at work than be forced to retire. If they are forced out of the labour market, they will end up poorer in retirement and that will impact the economy as a whole, as they will have less money to spend.
“Whether or not a worker is suitable for employment should be determined by their skill and ability, not their chronological age. Employers must be obliged to assess workers' suitability for their jobs on an individual basis, not according to some arbitrary criteria that consigns older workers to a labour market scrapheap on which they do not belong.
“There is a whole new phase of life waiting for workers - a period of years when they work part-time, cutting down gradually rather than suddenly stopping altogether.
“This is the way forward for employers and the sooner they wake up to the new realities, the better. Retirement should be a process, not an event, with 'bonus years' of part-time work that allow workers to keep earning and employers to retain their skills.
“Flexible retirement and gradual change in work patterns, or perhaps use of older workers for mentoring, training younger workers in firm-specific skills, job-sharing and so on will all require careful handling, but would be of enormous benefit to employers, employees and society as a whole. Unless people keep working longer, we will all be poorer in future.”
Saga carried out a survey of 14,178 people aged over 50. 85% thought that employees should have the right to a staged retirement. Our recent research shows that 38% want to continue working past state pension age and more than a third of people who have already retired say they would prefer to be doing some paid work.
HR departments already, in many cases, understand the benefits of employing older workers. Sagas own assessment of older workers shows that their performance is not dependent on their age. Also, employers have made flexible work available for women (for example after childbirth) and such policies can be extended to assist older workers stay in employment after their full-time careers and before full-time retirement
For further information please contact the Saga Press Office on 01303 771529.