Abolition of Default Retirement Age is Confirmed

Despite the concerns of employers raised during the consultation process, the Government has confirmed that the Default Retirement Age of 65 is to be abolished with effect from the 1st October 2011 – phasing out to commence from 1st April 2011.

According to the Government’s Response to Consultation paper, the dismissal of older workers should be managed either by discussion or by formal performance management procedures. Whilst the Government takes the view that “Employers should be confident in having discussions about an employee’s retirement plans if they are conducted openly, consistently and without prejudice”, clearly performance management will be the preferred route – with employers naturally being concerned that “discussions”, however well intentioned, could hold them hostage to employment tribunal claims for constructive unfair dismissal and age discrimination.

Acas has published a guide for employers on Working Without the Default Retirement Age which contains guidance about how to manage older workers – click here.

The Government’s Response Paper also states that “These changes do not mean that individuals can no longer retire at 65 – simply that the timing of that retirement becomes a matter of choice rather than compulsion. The Government is reviewing employment law more widely to ensure that flexibility for both employers and employees is maximised.” One can only assume that this means that we should anticipate changes to the existing right to request flexible working to accommodate requests from older workers, and perhaps the workforce as a whole.