Work ‘til you drop? ‘Not I’, says the Duke

09-05-2017

The Duke of Edinburgh’s decision to retire from royal duties this autumn – after 70 years of service to the crown – has dominated the news over the past week.

It has shone fresh light on the whole issue of retirement, for a nation where the set retirement age is a thing of the past.

Last year, it is reported that the Duke attended 219 royal engagements, which at the age of 95 is certainly impressive and more than many of the younger royals. Similarly dedicated, the Queen apparently intends to serve her country until she dies. Now, I know some people who really enjoy their jobs but I don’t think any of them would be keen to sign up for life service. Myself included (sorry Nick!).

Yet since the Equality Act 2010 was introduced, it has been unlawful for employers to implement compulsory retirement except in very exceptional circumstances where they can establish a clear necessity for their specific business. Compulsory retirement based on age is now considered discriminatory but many employers are still behind the times.

Is age really just a number?

The ‘golden handshake’ is no more and some may argue that this is a negative consequence of the Act, as it lacks clarity and, in some cases, dignity. It also creates difficult issues for many employers to address when an employee’s performance begins to deteriorate due to their age. In such instances, employers have to follow a capability procedure in line with the ACAS Code of Conduct, just the same as for any other employee with performance issues and regardless of age. This should always be approached reasonably and sensitively and the employer will be expected to provide support to the employee and give them an opportunity to improve. Dismissal due to capability issues caused by someone’s age is clearly a tricky issue and one that poses a risk to a business if it is not dealt with correctly.

As long as an employee is still capable of carrying out their role, their employment will continue regardless of how old they are. An employer that pressures any employee into resigning/retiring because of their age will be at risk of a claim for age discrimination and this is certainly an area that employers need to tread carefully on.

So how should employers broach the ‘R’ question?

Realistically, most employees today still want to retire voluntarily around the ages of 60 to 65, and will often voice their intentions directly to their employer in the lead up to this. It is always best to have an informal chat with an employee if the question of retirement does arise, and make a file note of the discussion in case any issues arise in the future.

It is often an area of employment law that employers don’t get quite right and so it is always best to seek advice as soon as there is any sign of a problem.

It is also advisable to check any policies and handbooks you have, as many employers today are still distributing out of date guidance relating to retirement.

The good news is we are always on hand to help over the phone, via email or in person. We also offer a free audit of any policies, handbooks or contracts you have. So there is no reason for you to risk having any out of date documentation!

If you think we can assist you with your business in respect of retirement or any other area of law, our team of experts will be happy to help. Just get in touch by phone on (01482) 225566, or email info@jameslegal.co.uk.


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