In a speech to the Third Age Employment Network, government minister Lord Hunt of Kings Heath called for support for the Age Discrimination regulations introduced on Sunday.
Lord Hunt, Department for Work and Pensions under secretary in the House of Lords, said the legislation aimed to ensure that older workers are not denied the opportunity to increase their life expectancy while minimising the risks of depression, obesity and poverty.
But the regulations’ mandatory retirement age is already the subject of a legal challenge by Heyday, the membership organisation for people in or nearing retirement.
And workplace issues consultancy Croner points out that the regulations specifically “override any pressure to be ‘politically correct’ when it comes to employing the over 65s”.
Lord Hunt said: “We will monitor the effects of the default retirement age and review them five years after implementation.
“Our aim over time is to move to a position where there is no compulsory retirement unless it can be justified by individual employers. We intend to remove the default retirement age as soon as we can show that it is no longer necessary or appropriate.
“Default retirement age is not a compulsory retirement age. We will continue to encourage employers to adopt more flexible practices around retirement.
“I’m delighted to say that my Department, the DWP, has taken the decision to remove its retirement age altogether for staff below the senior civil service. The message is the same for all – it’s time to remove age discrimination from your business.”
The government has also come under fire for keeping the development rate for 18-21-year-olds in the National Minimum Wage.
Lord Hunt explained: “We have done this to protect younger workers. Our concern is that, if we did not protect the development bands some employers might lay off their young workers. The independent Low Pay Commission share this concern and recommended the introduction of an exemption along these lines last year.”