Solo Consultancy Ltd
Default Retirement Age (DRA)
At present, the Government plans to abolish the Default Retirement Age (DRA) in April 2011. This move is based on the premise that it is wrong to fix a retirement age at a particular point in time (65 years old) and to expect that all employees will be ready, willing and able to end their working life at that point.
The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 made it illegal to discriminate on grounds of age in employment, training and adult education. These regulations were all incorporated into the Equality Act 2010 which came into force last October, and it is an expansion of these regulations that is planned for April 2011.
However, there is come concern about the planned abolition of the DRA, which is coming from a variety of sources. Many employers are worried that a lack of clarity in the legislation and the accompanying guidelines will make it much more difficult to manage claims of discrimination on grounds of age, and that a higher number of challenges and employment tribunals will result. In some cases, where a job involves a high level of physical dexterity and fitness, it may not be wise or, indeed, possible, for older workers to undertake the role, and the balance between ensuring that the law on age discrimination is applied properly, and maintaining the health and safety of employees will become even more difficult.
So, what should employers be doing in the lead up to the April changes to the DRA?
Well, first of all, the CBI has made representations to the Coalition Government, asking for the abolition of the DRA to be reconsidered. They argue that the lack of clarity surrounding the legal implications of such a change, and the difficulties facing employers as a result of the ongoing economic problems, make this, at the very least, a bad time to introduce such a change. However, the CBI’s representation may not come to anything, and some preparation now in the event of such a change being introduced, is worth considering. So, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are the current arrangements for dealing with age discrimination robust and effective?
- What changes will need to be incorporated into the Equality and Diversity Policies to deal with the planned abolition of the DRA?
- Have trade unions and staff representatives been consulted about the planned changes, and if not, what is the timescale for doing so?
- What arrangements do we have for offering a phased retirement, or duties of a less physically demanding nature, for older members of staff who may wish to explore such an option?
- What are the pension and salary implications of the above?
- How confident are we of managing potential challenges from staff, based on age discrimination and the abolition of the DRA?
It’s just a start, but it is worth giving some thought to these issues now, before they become a burning issue, and ones which may take up a great deal of management time. As is usually the case, a little panning and foresight now will probably save a great deal of time later on.