I am approaching retirement age, but I want to keep on working. What are my rights?

In the UK it has been illegal for an organisation to discriminate against an individual in employment, education or training due to their age since 2006. These rights have now been further clarified by the new Equality Act 2010 which came into force on 1 October.

The new act brought together the different pieces of equality legislation that had been created over previous decades including the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 and introduced new protection against discrimination in goods and services such as healthcare.

The legislation provides anti-discrimination rights for employees, the self-employed, contract workers and job applicants as well as adults in training or education. Essentially, no organisation can treat an individual less favourably because of their age.

For example; they cannot refuse to employee someone or have a policy that puts people of a certain age at a disadvantage, such as restricting recruitment to graduates.

That said, the law does allow for lawful discrimination in cases where an employer can justify it as the only appropriate way of achieving a legitimate and necessary aim. One example is refusing to recruit individuals over 60 for a role that involves a long and expensive training period. The aim would be for an employee to be in the role for a reasonable period before they retire.

At the current time organisations can also refuse to hire someone who is over the national default retirement age of 65, or the employers normal retirement age, without having to justify it.

Moreover, organisations can still force employees to retire once they have reached the age of 65, providing they follow the correct procedure. Employers must give employees a minimum of six months’ notice of the intended date of retirement and all employees have the right to request to continue working after that date. If an organisation fails to give six months’ notice an employee can appeal to the employment tribunal and be awarded up to eight weeks pay in compensation. If an employer gives less than two weeks’ notice, the retirement is considered to be unfair dismissal.

However, this is all due to change after a government announcement in July revealed that the default retirement age of 65 is to be abolished from 1 October 2011. Once the formal retirement age has been scrapped employers will no longer be able to force employees to retire at 65 and the rules regarding recruitment should change. The new law is still under development and employees should be aware that it may give employers the right to insert a retirement age into a contract.


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