Friday, 5 February 2010

Employers Forum on Age argues against Default Retirement Age

Rachel Krys, campaign director for the Employers Forum on Age, has written a most insightful article for Personnel Today in which as well as arguing against the DRA on age discrimination grounds points out the strange and very old fashioned thinking that emanates from the CBI on this issue. This is so good that I am passing on an extract from the article.

"No doubt the CBI will submit its research, which states that 81% of requests to remain working are being accepted. This is supported by the EFA's own research. But we have also submitted the research we carried out with 200 HR professionals last summer. It found that almost two-thirds (64%) of employers who operate a mandatory retirement age agree that it can lead to a loss of valuable knowledge and talent.
Among those organisations that have removed the mandatory retirement age, more than three-quarters considered it a positive step for their organisation and said it helped maintain valuable skills and their organisation's customer-facing image and reputation.
But what is happening to the people whose requests to stay on weren't granted? And how many are not even getting to that stage because there is a strong culture that encourages people to retire? If they are being forced to retire against their will, there is nothing they can do about it.
In addition to the research, the EFA also carried out focus groups with employers, exploring the barriers to removing the DRA. The central concern continues to be lack of confidence in their own performance management systems. This is exacerbated by the ongoing belief that performance declines rapidly with age and people will want to work for ever, given the chance. Although there is little evidence to support these stereotypes, the image that there will be old people who can't do the job, clogging up the corridors, is persistent.
Few employers have much confidence in their appraisal schemes. But the organisations that have removed a retirement age, including B&Q, Nationwide, JD Wetherspoon, Marks and Spencer and BT, have identified an improvement in the rigour and effectiveness of their performance management schemes as one of the biggest benefits. When you take away retirement, managers can no longer allow poor performers to coast.
The argument that retirement allows people to leave work with dignity is still used, and some employers seem to be clinging onto this paternalistic approach. However, none of the employers who operate without a retirement age have any evidence that there is a loss of dignity or that older workers are being forced to stay on when they are no longer capable. In reality, the majority of employees are very alert to their capabilities and most want to continue working for a relatively short time to fit in with other commitments they have."

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