Workers aged over 65 are to get the same rights to unfair dismissal and redundancy payments as younger workers, the British government said today as it outlined how laws to tackle age discrimination due next year will work in practice.
The laws, part of the European Employment Directive, will come into force in October next year.
Under the draft measures announced by trade and industry secretary Alan Johnson, age discrimination in terms of recruitment, promotion and training will be banned.
There will also be a ban on retirement ages below 65, except where objectively justified.
The current upper age limit for unfair dismissal and redundancy rights will be removed and employers will be required to consider an employee's request to continue working beyond retirement. There will also be a requirement for employers to give written notification to employees at least six months in advance of their intended retirement date to allow people to plan for their retirement.
Johnson said: "Individuals should have the choice to carry on working if they want to. This is not about forcing people to work longer, it is about freedom to choose.
"Equally, to thrive in a competitive market British business increasingly bases its employment and training decisions on talent not age. Employers know that they cannot afford to ignore the skills of any worker Ė young or old," he added.
Workers needed to be able to plan for their future and retirement should not come as an unexpected surprise, he stressed.
"The duty for employers to give at least six months notice will help individuals make informed decisions about retiring.
"These regulations are an important step forward, ensuring individuals benefit from important new rights and opportunities while allowing business to operate productively and fairly," he added.
But the Employers Forum on Age warned the regulations could create "a false sense of security" among employers.
Director Sam Mercer said: "The Government has set out to reassure UK plc about age regulations by introducing a default age for retirement and by allowing employers to use age criteria in limited circumstances.
"However, trying to prove age is an essential requirement in the workplace will be difficult and costly, and the default retirement age will cause as many problems as it solves," she warned.
Employers needed to recognise the new regulations would require major reform in all areas of employment policy.
"This is the last chance for employers to have their say on whether these age regulations are workable Ė we urge them to respond to these proposals," she added.