Can my boss force me to retire?

28 January 2010

Many people can't wait until the day they can pack up their desks and retire. But many others want to stay in work – perhaps for financial reasons or simply because they aren't ready to give up their careers.

The government is considering whether to scrap the default retirement age – currently 65 – as part of the Equality Bill.

Harriet Harman, minister for women and leader of the House of Commons, recently said forced retirement costs the economy £31 billion a year and must be outlawed.

In a speech at the Age UK conference, Harman spoke of the growing emergence of the 'wellderly'. "We now have a new cohort of well, active, healthy older people.

The role they play in their families, in the economy and in society must be recognised and responded to," she said.

There are currently 1.4 million people choosing to work beyond the age of 65 and, according to Harman, many more would like to work for longer if their employer allowed them to.

This is backed up by recent research the equalities watchdog that found as many as 64% of people plan to work beyond the age of state retirement.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission says that preventing employers from retiring people at the age of 65 would open up more work opportunities for older Britons and address the challenges of an ageing workforce.

Its research also found that employers are offering lower level, part-time work to people over 50-year-olds, despite the fact that twice as many older workers want a job promotion compared to those that want to down-shift.

What does the law say?

Currently, employers are legally allowed to retire workers at the age of 65. As a worker, your employer must give you at least six (and up to 12) months' written notice before it can forcibly retire you.

Your employer must also let you know that you have the right to request to continue working. 

Such a request must be made by you in writing, and should clearly state that you wish to continue working indefinitely, for a certain period, or until a certain date.

If you ask to work beyond 65, your employer is obliged to consider your request. However, it can refuse you, and it doesn't have to give a reason for this decision.

You can request a meeting and appeal if you are not happy with the decision. However, as long as your employer follows the correct procedure, it has the right to force retirement.

If you are below the compulsory retirement age, your boss can only force you to retire if they can prove that doing so is 'appropriate and necessary'.

Employers can also refuse to employ candidates who are over the default retirement age, or  or over the employer’s normal retirement age, whichever is the higher, without having to justify this. 

Applications from anyone who applies for a job within six months of their 65th birthday (or the employer’s normal retirement age if this is over 65) can also be rejected without justification. Sadly, according to Age Concern, a person who is refused a job on this basis will have no way of challenging or appealing against the decision.    


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