From 6th April 2011, employers were no longer able to issue staff with retirement notices. Thanks to the UK population enjoying longer lives and better health, the vast majority of people can now stay in work for as long as they like. There must now be a potentially fair reason for the individual to be dismissed other than their age, e.g. their conduct or capability, or else the employer risks being taken to tribunal for unfair dismissal. Employees can opt to take retirement whenever they want, but the abolition of default retirement age coincides with the state pension age rising. If an employee opts to take retirement before state pension age, they will not qualify for the payments – which of course will result in employees choosing to stay in work as long as they can. How employers can adapt to retirement law changes Many businesses will appreciate the chance to hold on to their experienced and dedicated staff for a little longer. But if an older employee is declining in productivity or unable to cope, there are certain ways that the employer can adapt:
- Objective justification: If there is a health or age-related issue that is – from an objective viewpoint – impeding the person's ability to do the job, there is fair reason to retain a retirement age. Examples would be failing eyesight for an air traffic controller or physical fitness for a police officer. This of course is not limited to the over-65s.
- Monitoring performance: If you can monitor the individual's performance and prove it is unsatisfactory, they can fairly be dismissed. Again, capability and conduct benchmarking applies across all staff.
- Managing workloads: If you want to keep hold of a good employee it may be necessary to offer them reduced working hours or workloads. Being flexible could be beneficial to both the individual and the business.