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EHRC demands abolition of compulsory retirement

2 February 2010

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has called on the government to abolish the default retirement age. The move comes as the committee stage of the Equality Bill resumed in the House of Lords.

Research commissioned by the EHRC from the Policy Studies Institute claims that if everyone worked for a further 18 months, this would inject £15bn into the economy.

The research also found that while around eight per cent of men over 65 and women over 60 were in work during the nineties, by 2006 this had reached ten per cent of men and 12 per cent of women.

The EHRC said this trend had “accelerated sharply” during the recession, with the proportion of people over 55 planning to work beyond the retirement age rising from 40 to 71 per cent, mainly for financial reasons.

Baroness Prosser, deputy chair of the EHRC, said: “Keeping older Britons healthy and in the workforce also benefits the economy more broadly by decreasing welfare costs and increasing the spending power of older Britons.”

The EHRC has also called for the right to flexible working to be extended to everyone.

The Policy Studies Institute research was based on a telephone survey of 1,500 people aged 50 to 75.

The government is reviewing the default retirement age after Mr Justice Blake’s comments in the Heyday case.

While ruling in the High Court last year that the UK’s default retirement age was not unlawful, Blake J said the case for increasing the age “would seem to be compelling” (see Solicitors Journal 153/36, 29 September 2009).

Age Concern began its judicial review in the High Court in December 2006, arguing that the UK’s age regulations breached the ban on age discrimination in the equal treatment directive. The Heyday case was referred to the European Court of Justice in July 2007.

The government is committed to raising the retirement age to 66 for men and women in 2024.

The Conservatives want to raise it to 66 for men in 2016 and the same age for women in 2020.

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