Recent research from the CBI showed that one in three people in the UK either cannot afford, or does not want, to stop working at 65. With an increased number of employees requesting to continue working beyond that age, employers and HR teams need to know how to act when presented with such a request in order to avoid facing claims of age discrimination.
As the law currently stands, the default retirement age is 65 and employers have no obligation to grant requests to work beyond that. However, bosses must ensure that the correct procedure is followed when forcing an individual to retire or they could have a potentially damaging legal battle on their hands.
Here is a guide to the steps involved in the retirement process:
- Six to 12 months before the employee reaches retirement age, the employer must give them written notice and the date of retirement, as well as informing them of their right to request to continue working.
- If the employee wishes to continue working, they must request this in writing to their employer three to six months before the intended retirement date. They should specify whether they wish to continue working indefinitely or until a certain date.
- A meeting must then be held to discuss the request. This must be within a reasonable period of time and the employee must be informed of their right to be accompanied to the meeting.
- After the meeting, the employer must provide the employee with a written, dated note, advising them of whether their request to continue working has been accepted.
- If the employer grants the employee the right to continue working past the retirement date, the employer must ensure they put the revised contract terms in writing. If the employer refuses the employee’s request, they do not have to give the employee a reason, but it is recommended that they do so. The reason given should be a strong and fair one. The employer must advise the employee of their right to appeal the decision.
- If the employee decides to appeal the decision, the appeal must be held within a reasonable period of time.
- Following the appeal, the employer must again provide the employee with a written and dated note of their decision as soon as is reasonably practicable. They can either change their mind and decide to grant the request, or stick with their decision. They still do not need to give a reason but again, it is recommended they do so.
- There is no further right of appeal.
Most companies will be happy to keep hold of older employees as their experience and skills are often invaluable. However, for those organisations that are unable to do so, age discrimination claims can be easily avoided as long as employers follow these steps and ensure they have clear and fair reasons for their decisions.