Monday, 25 January 2010

Equality and Human Rights Commission

An excellent article in the Times by Baroness Prosser today states that:
"A quiet revolution is taking place in attitudes towards ageing and work. The stereotype used to say that older workers were winding down as they watched the clock. Research from the Equality and Human Rights Commission shows that the opposite is true. More than half of people aged 50 and over hope to keep on working past the state pension age.

Most are still keen to learn and develop and more than twice as many aspire to get promoted than to downshift. In other words, many do not want to disengage from the world of work: they want to become more involved.

That change in expectations has gone alongside a change in lifestyles. Getting older no longer automatically means feeling less healthy. More than three fifths of older workers say that they feel “as fit as ever”. Nor should we automatically assume that older people have finished with their family responsibilities. Nearly one in ten 70-75 year olds still support their children financially.

The case for enabling people to work for longer as a matter of personal choice is strong, but allied to the economic argument, it becomes irresistible. Research from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research shows that extending working lives by 18 months would inject £15 billion into British economy. In the current economic climate that could hardly be more welcome".

Older workers are finding it harder than any other age group to get a job after being made redundant.

Barriers, ranging from legislation to old-fashioned prejudice, keep them out of work. Ageism already costs the economy up to an estimated £30 billion each year. If this is a problem today, very soon it will be a major headache. In as little as 20 years’ time, half of us will be aged 50 or over. Overlooking that wealth of talent and experience is a sure way to make the economy suffer.

That’s why it’s high time to match the revolution in older people’s lifestyles and attitudes with a revolution in workplace practices. The Equality and Human Rights Commission is recommending a series of urgent steps to enable British business to adapt and thrive in the 21st century.

First, do away with the default retirement age. There is no more obvious form of unfair discrimination against older people. But this needs to be accompanied by a range of thoughtful changes in employer practices.

Most important is flexibility. Sixty eight per cent of over-50s who are unemployed but below pension age, and 85 per cent of people who are economically inactive and over pension age, said that greater availability of flexible and part-time work would help them to find jobs. We believe that it makes sense to extend the right to request flexible working to everyone.

It’s also time to look again at recruitment, training and workplace health programmes, where small but significant changes could help employers to attract and retain the talented people they need.

And yet we still have commentators moaning on about older workers taking jobs away from younger ones, managers having to spent too much time managing performance and maybe having to tell someone that they are not really capable of doing a job anymore. Note that last statement - not that someone is too old to be doing this job but not capable of doing it. Is not that a managerial function for any age?

We are still awaiting an official G'ment response to all of this and indeed to Harriet Harmon's views that are very much in line with this new report. The Lib Dems are totally against the Default Retirement Age although the Tories now seem to be wavering on the sidelines. I was told categorically by David Willetts 6 months ago that they were against this but maybe some of their business supporters from the CBI have been nobbling them. The same group that have nobbled Lord Mandelson. Come on you commentators - just look at what a non issue this is in the US where it was abandoned over a decade ago.

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