International Day of Older Persons

Today is International Day of Older Persons, so it’s a good time to remember that while many people leave the workforce at the age of 65 or before, some continue to work after the age of 65.

A person may continue working for financial or personal reasons, like keeping busy and staying connected to colleagues. Being an ‘older person’ doesn’t necessarily mean 65 and over because it’s not a term defined in legislation.

Older persons can bring a lot to a workplace, their experience and knowledge can’t easily be replaced, and like all workers, they should be treated fairly.

All people are protected from unlawful discrimination in their employment on the grounds of age. This means that an older person can’t be discriminated against because of their age, for example, by being overlooked for a new role because they are ‘too old’ or because they could retire soon.

An exception to this is if being a particular age or age group is a genuine qualification for a job for any reason, including safety. However, if the employer can make changes to the workplace that allow that particular age group to work, without unreasonable disruption to the business, then this won’t apply.

Most of us want to retire at some point, so should an employee make their retirement plans clear, businesses should work with them to prepare. A good way for employers to manage this is with a phased retirement. This is where the employer and employee agree to reduce the retiring employee’s workload over a period of time.

A phased retirement allows the employee to ease into retirement and transfer their knowledge across the business. This could be achieved using flexible work arrangements.

In most cases, an employer can’t force an employee to retire. Some occupations have retirement set out in legislation, such as coroners and judges. If an employer forces an employee to retire in a situation not covered by one of the exceptions, the employee could challenge this by raising a personal grievance.

Older workers have a huge part to play in businesses and are an invaluable source of experience and knowledge - it’s important that they are treated properly.