Should employers be allowed to fix a compulsory retirement age? Although the US, Australia and New Zealand have largely abolished mandatory-age retirement, a recent consultation paper suggests the UK Government is undecided. However, under an EU directive, it will be obliged to introduce age discrimination laws by 2006. Forcing workers to call it a day at an arbitrary age is deeply ingrained in British work culture. It also provides an excuse for dispensing with proper performance management for older workers. But declining birth rates and longer life expectancy point towards encouraging workers to stay in the labour market longer. A compromise would be to exempt mandatory retirement from age discrimination legislation for a period beyond 2006, giving employers time to adjust their policies on senior staff. It looks as though gold watch manufacturers will be in trouble.
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