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The Default Retirement Age has finally been retired

The last possible date by which an employee could have been dismissed under the Default Retirement Age (DRA) has just passed, 18 months on from its phasing out in April 2011.

Before last April, employers could give six to twelve months' notice of retirement with a possible extension of up to six months if employees requested it.

Campaigners have welcomed the abolition of the DRA, having long objected to older workers being forced out of a job even if they were willing and able to continue working. It comes shortly after equality laws were further strengthened with the introduction of a ban on age discrimination in the provision of goods, services and facilities.

The end of the DRA compels employers to take a more objective approach to retirement and performance management. But it is just one part of a raft of measures to end age discrimination in the workplace. Employers must now show that they are making decisions based on peoples' abilities and not on their age in every area of employment relations, including contractual terms and conditions, training, promotion, transfers, dismissals and recruitment.

It is unlikely to be practical or appropriate to treat all workers, including those of different ages, in exactly the same way. However, all workers do have to be treated fairly and consistently. Employees cannot be treated more favourably because of their age, unless there is an objective justification for it as a proportionate response to a legitimate need.

Research shows that declines in physical and cognitive abilities associated with growing older do not necessarily translate into reduced performance at work. They are often more than compensated for by the skills, experience and strategies that have been gleaned over many years. Either way, employers need a fair system so that evidence of poor performance is addressed in the same way for young and old employees alike.

Acas offers comprehensive training on Age and the repeal of the Default Retirement Age, providing an overview of discrimination legislation and management responsibilities for equality and diversity issues. Acas also provides training on Performance management and conducting appraisals.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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