The thought of retirement for the employee can be mixed – a relief, exciting, or even tainted with a dread of the unknown. Especially if they haven’t made any firm retirement plans. Alternatively, they may be planning to work until they’re 70, as recent research undertaken by the CIPD shows that many people feel this will help them to remain mentally fit.
Whatever the employee’s feelings about retirement, as an employer you need to be as supportive as possible on the lead up to retirement. You also need to be careful about how you approach people who you feel may be nearing retirement age. It could be that your employees don’t want to retire yet, and you may be accused of age discrimination.
Due to a change in the law introduced on 6 April 2011, employers can no longer compel employees to retire at a specified age, unless the requirement to retire is justified objectively – for instance, if your organisation relies on a certain level of fitness to perform their job functions effectively, such as within the construction industry. This change in legislation means that employees can choose to retire when they want.
The law now means that you cannot use retirement as an excuse to dismiss employees who might be experiencing difficulties with their work, for whatever reason. Instead, all employees of all ages should be treated fairly and equally when appraising past performance, or when providing training and development opportunities. Doing this regularly will help to prevent capability issues from arising.
Treating older employees differently from younger employees could amount to age discrimination, which could, unless justified, be unlawful. For example, if you disregard inadequate performance on the part of a 65-year-old employee on the assumption that he or she will be retiring soon, but deliver heavy criticism to a 25-year-old employee whose performance is similarly inadequate, the difference in treatment would amount to age discrimination.
Similarly, if the employee indicates during an appraisal interview that he or she is considering retiring soon, take care not to discriminate against him or her. Instead, you could begin to make future plans if the employee does decide to retire.
Dos and don’ts
- Do continue to treat the employee in the same way as you would treat other employees, for example in the provision of training opportunities.
- Do adjust the employee’s performance expectations proportionately if they indicate that they would like to work reduced hours in the run-up to retirement, and if you can accommodate this.
- Do discuss with the employee how they could pass on their knowledge and skills to other staff in the run-up to retirement.
- Do discuss succession issues with the employee, for example how they might be involved in training a replacement for the job.
- Do reassure the employee that they can change their mind about retirement if they wish.
- Don’t say or do anything that might amount to age discrimination against the employee.
- Don’t assume that, if the employee indicates that they plan to retire at a particular time, they will do so. Until the employee actually hands in his or her notice, communication of an intention to retire is not binding on the employee. You could, however, remind the employee of the requirement to give notice under the employment contract, and the length of the notice period.
By being mindful of both your legal requirements and your employees’ needs, and acting accordingly, means that your business is not only helping your employee during this often difficult transition in their lives, but you are also protecting, or even improving, your organisation’s reputation as a good employer.
For any further advice on how to help your employees retire well with the least disruption to your business, do call me on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me.