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Drop the compulsory retirement age, says Equality Commission

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Employees should be allowed to continue working after the age of 65, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has argued.

The Commission has recommended that the compulsory retirement threshold of 65 be dropped, and that employers should be incentivised to enable older employees to work more flexibly.

An ageing population and a trend towards people working later on into life have rendered the default retirement age an anachronism, the EHRC said.

Abolishing the rule that permits employers to oblige employees to leave work at 65 would, the Commission continued, encourage more innovative approaches to flexible working and would improve the way in which firms handle the performance of workers of all ages.

To run in harness with the change, the EHRC also proposed that the right to request flexible working be extended to include all employees and that employers receive incentives for introducing flexible working patterns, especially for the over-50s.

In a survey carried out by the Commission, almost two thirds of women (64 per cent) and a quarter of men (24 per cent) claimed they would welcome the chance to remain economically active after the current state pension age.

Six out of ten respondents said they wished to continue working on a part-time basis, while 40 per cent wanted to stay in their current jobs but more flexibly.

Baroness Margaret Prosser, the EHRC’s deputy chair, said: “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 – a problem that is further exacerbated by the skills lost by many older workers being forced to retire at 65.

“Keeping older Britons healthy and in the workforce also benefits the economy more broadly by decreasing welfare costs and increasing the spending power of older Britons.

“Our research shows that to provide real opportunity to older workers, abolishing the default retirement age needs to be accompanied by a concerted drive by government, employers and agencies to meet the health, caring and work needs of the over-50s to enable them to remain in the workplace. Greater flexibility can help to deliver this.”

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said that it was aim of the government eventually to abolish fixed-age retirement thresholds.

He commented: “We have already committed to bringing forward our review of the default retirement age to this year. We are taking evidence now from business and individuals on the impact of retirement ages.

“Our review will reach a decision after full consideration of the evidence on whether the default retirement age is still appropriate.”