The first thing you should be aware of is that you are no longer able to dismiss someone on the grounds of retirement; older workers can voluntarily retire at any age since the default retirement age was removed in 2011. As a business you can set a compulsory retirement age but you will have to objectively justify this. This will have to include a strong business need to have older workers retire, such as attracting and keeping younger, recently qualified professionals in to the business, and the selected age will need to be chosen with care. 65 may no longer be the accepted age for retirement, or justify your compulsory retirement age, due to the continuing rise of state pension age and a growing number of employees working later in life.
This does not mean, however, that you cannot ask older employees what their plans are. You can do this in the same way as you ask all other employees, maybe as part of their annual appraisal, what their plans for the future are. You should avoid any direct questions such as “Are you going to retire soon” as this could be used as evidence to show a discriminatory attitude. If the employee themselves say that they are planning, or want to, retire then you can ask them questions about any arrangements you can do which will help with their plans. Keep any notes taken during this meeting in the employee’s file as a record of this meeting and to show what type of non-discriminatory questions were asked.
If the worker continues to work past the age of 65 then you may find that the cost of providing them with company benefits, such as medical insurance or life assurance, may become more expensive or even prohibit these older workers. Removing the benefits will be unlawful age discrimination unless they fall in to the exception of withdrawing benefits that are insured through third parties when the employee ‘attains’ the age of 65. Again, if this applies to your employee who is reaching retirement age, then you should hold a meeting to discuss this with them. Surprisingly, in a 2014 survey, it was found that 1 in 5 employers do not explicitly inform their employees who have passed the age of 65 that their benefit provision may change.
If you need any clarification on this issue then contact the Peninsula Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.