Keeping older workers in the workforce for longer is going to be an interesting challenge. Many older workers are fit and happy to work, and will present no problem whatsoever.
There are a group of 50 and 60 something year olds who are far from fit now. If you look around the workforce at the moment (whatever age they are), you can see unhealthy weights, complexions, people with difficulty walking, out of breath having climbed one flight of stairs.
Whilst it would be discrimination to assume that all workers beyond a certain age are not ‘up to it’ it is likely that some workers will benefit not only from age discrimination protection but also disability discrimination protection as they develop long term conditions as part of their aging process. Even if they are fit, they may have partners who become disabled, which may give them rights as carers.
Employers will need to find ways to manage workers with declining energy and fitness without unlawfully discriminating on the grounds of disability
One of the problems in managing pre-retirement years is the idea that a step downwards (in hierarchical terms) is a mark of failure. If this is accompanied by a pay cut of any kind, this can give rise to discrimination claims, as well as leaving demotivated long serving employees.
Pay (even after equality audit!) is often linked to hierarchical position and status, and it can be difficult when adjusting roles for disability or flexible working to know what to do with the ‘supervisory’ or managerial element of some roles.
Annabel Kaye is Managing Director of Irenicon Ltd, a specialist employment law consultancy. Tel: 08452 303050 Fax: 08452 303060 Website : www.irenicon.co.uk. You can follow Annabel on twitter – http://twitter.com/AnnabelKaye and check our regular articles and news throughout the autumn on our blog site – https://irenicon.wordpress.com/