From this week, the workplace changes forever. From now on, it is no longer legal for an employer to sack workers just because they have reached age 65. This change should have happened many years ago and Saga has long campaigned for this change in this law.
It is a credit to this Government that one of its first actions when taking office was to announce an end to the Default Retirement Age. This move is long overdue and the workplace in future will be much more welcoming to older workers.
The fact is that people are simply not 'old' or 'past it' any more in their sixties and, after all the tremendous advances in healthcare and labour practices, there is no reason why those who want to keep working should be forced out just on the grounds of their age. Such ageist attitudes and discriminatory practices have no place in a modern labour market.
This does not mean anyone has to be forced to work longer. But it does mean that employers cannot force people stop, if they are perfectly good at their jobs and willing and able to work.
During 2011, nearly 2000 people each and every day have celebrated their 65th birthday. Their celebrations can now be enhanced by know that, if they want to keep working, they must be judged on their abilities, rather than just their age.
The labour market of the future will be very different from that faced by previous older workers. Many people have long wanted to work beyond the 'traditional' retirement age, saying it keeps their mind alert and that they want to continue earning in later life. Indeed one of our recent Saga Populus Panel Surveys showed that nearly half of the over 50s who are not yet retired would like to keep working after 65 - and 7% even want to work into their seventies.
The ideal solution for many would be for more part-time work in later life, with employer and worker having a mature discussion about the best way to retain workers' skills as they get older. We need to alter our mindset and rethink retirement, making it a more gradual process, rather than a sudden one-off event.
Working longer can improve all our economic futures. Many older people have energy, skills and experience that can be very beneficial to employers and would be lost to the economy if they were forced to retire before they wanted to. People would be better able to support themselves in later life and not rely on the state for their day-to-day income and it will also help funding any longer-term care needs.
Ending the Default Retirement Age offers tremendous opportunities for the UKs over 50s, as people are living longer and healthier lives, and as pensions are often falling short of expectations, people can now think about working later - or even embarking on second or third careers. This could mean people have a whole new phase of life, with a better work-life balance as they get older as well. As employers embrace the chance for flexible work opportunities for older workers, everyone could be a winner.
For further information, please contact the Saga Press Office on 01303 771529.