Can I be forced to retire?
A concern of some people as they get older is whether they will - or could - be forced to retire by their employer. The confusion on this matter is understandable, as the regulations in the UK have changed a couple of times in a relatively short space of time.
In 2006 the Labour government introduced the Default Retirement Age (DRA), which gave employers the right to deny employment or terminate an existing contract to anyone over the age of 65 without providing a reason. It is estimated that over 100,000 people were forced to retire in 2009, as "employers had used forced retirement as a cheap and easy alternative to redundancy during the recession."
Unsurprisingly, this was met with derision by some groups and campaigners on the grounds of age discrimination, and Age UK campaigned for an Age Discrimination Ban. On its FAQ, Age UK states that "the DRA gave older workers second-class employment rights and takes away their freedom to plan for retirement at a time when they need it most." Michelle Mitchell, director for Age Concern and Help the Aged Charity, told the Guardian that the DRA "has stamped an expiry date on hundreds of thousands of older workers. It's the most disturbing example of age discrimination which still tarnishes later life for so many people."
On January 13 2011, the coalition government announced that it would phase out DRA, and employers could not force an older person to retire. The new legislation stated that from April 6 2011, employers could not issue a compulsory retirement notice, with the only exception being people who were informed of their compulsory retirement before April 6 and who were due to retire before October 1 in that year.
That legislation is still in place today, and an employer must treat an employee over 65 the same as a younger employee, otherwise they will be guilty of age discrimination. This means that older workers can face redundancy if they are not appropriate for the role. The legislation does not force older people to remain in work though, it simply protects them from being forced out of it - they still have the choice to leave their job and start taking their pension.
If you're approaching 65 and worrying that you may be forced to retire, or have been warned that it may happen, you can stop worrying. Employers are not able to do this anymore, and you have the legal right to continue working until you want to stop.
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