A new poll has revealed overwhelming public support for more flexibility about work and the removal of fixed retirement ages.
The Age Concern/ICM poll found that 76 per cent of workers are opposed to being forced to retire at a fixed age and cited more flexible working arrangements as the biggest incentive to carry on working. Some 77 per cent of 45-54 and 74 per cent of 55-64-year-olds polled said greater choice over working hours was an encouragement to continuing work.
Following the UK Governmentís adoption of the EU Directive on Equal Treatment in employment, employers will be required to introduce equality in employment legislation on age discrimination by December 2006. This will make it illegal to discriminate against people in the workplace on the grounds of age.
Currently nearly a third of over 50s are not in a full-time job, yet this age group will reach a third of the population by 2020. If they suffer similar levels of unemployment the economy will lose out too. According to calculations by the Employerís Forum on Age, the UK is £31billion a year worse off because of older workersí wasted skills and experience.
Working until later in life is also the core of the European strategy to tackle the global pensions challenge.
The findings come as Age Concern launches its Business Pledge, an opportunity for employers to lead the way in demonstrating sound business sense by committing to age equality in the workplace. The charity aims to sign up over a 1000 businesses before a new law on age equality at work comes into effect in 2006.
Gordon Lishman, Age Concern Englandís Director General said: "Business leaders have a huge role to play in shaping the way we see age: we simply cannot respond to the challenge of our ageing society without them. We have set ourselves an ambitious target to work with the business community to ensure that age equality is delivered, providing real benefits to business, older workers and the UK economy."
The Nationwide Building Society is the first to sign Age Concernís Business Pledge. Chief Executive, Philip Williamson, said: "We are committed to making the most of our unique asset- our people. We have first-hand experience of the genuine business benefits of employing a diverse workforce in terms of age, race and gender."
"We believe that valuing the contribution of each individual is not only good for our employees, itís good for our business too," he added.
Michael Partridge, 54, who is one of those who has benefited from the Nationwideís policies. "I am surprised and delighted to find that Nationwide is keen to invest in me and my future development," He said.
"Since joining Nationwide at the age of 52 as an advisor in their call centre, I have been promoted to senior advisor and am now on a fast track training programme that will give me the opportunity to become a team manager. Their flexible approach allows me to balance my work and my life outside the office, whilst also giving Nationwide the benefit of my previous experience."