The ageing workforce: Adjustments, performance and pension considerations

Age is an incredibly sensitive subject to discuss, particularly within the workplace. Here, Alan Price stresses that the key to managing older workers is to treat them the same way as you would other members of the workforce.

If older employees are performing to the required standards of performance then there is no need to view them in any way which is different from younger employees because there is sufficient evidence that they are fully capable of doing their job.

In the event of poor performance

If the performance of an older member of staff begins to falter or comes into question, then employers should deal with them in accordance with your normal procedures, as you would with any other member of staff.

This would involve looking at the situation to identify what the root cause of their dip in performance might be.

Their age may not be the cause. To allow misconceptions in your attitude towards older workers, and to treat older employees less favourably because of their age will open an employer up to a claim of age discrimination, which is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, in the same way as someone’s race or gender.

Should adjustments be considered?

There is no stand-alone right for someone to have adjustments made to their role just because of their age.

The legal duty to make reasonable adjustments to a role applies to an employee who has a disability, and it is just as likely for a younger employee to suffer from a disability as an older one.

Clearly, where an older employee has a disability which hinders their performance in their role then adjustments need to be considered but it is disability which drives this obligation, not age.

Temporary adjustments considered during a standard capability process are those which would also be considered for younger employees who are, for some reason, not performing to the required standards, for example, more training/supervision.

Employees of any age can claim unfair dismissal; the previous restrictions on employees over the age of 65 from claiming unfair dismissal were removed in 2006. Additionally, employees over 65 can also claim a full statutory redundancy payment too.

Retirement

Decisions about retirement are, in general, purely to be taken by the employee. It is no longer possible to enforce retirement on an employee merely by virtue of reaching the age 65.

Contractual retirement ages can only be used if they are objectively justified, meaning that it must be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

For the vast majority of employers, therefore, enforced retirement is not an option and provided that the employee’s performance remains at an acceptable level, the employee should not be treated differently to anyone else.

Further reading on pensions

 

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