Ross Wigham speaks to pensions minister Malcolm Wicks about encouraging theemployment of older staffQ Does the Government want people to work beyond the traditionalretirement age? A We don’t want them to – we want to give people a choice about whenthey retire. We all have different aspirations but suddenly because you’re 65you don’t become less valuable to an organisation. It’s about giving choice andtrying to throw out the idea that once you reach a certain age you’re only fitfor retirement. Q What factors are making people want to work beyond retirement age? A More people are able to exercise more choices because there aremore options. As long as staff are able to do the job well, employers should beflexible. Some older people are saying they enjoy their job and want tocontinue doing it. Q What are the challenges to working beyond traditional retirement age? A The real challenge is confronting this demographic paradox of anageing population, but a simultaneous growth in ageism. Proposals to outlaw agediscrimination are right because I believe it can be as devastating as racialor sexual discrimination. Q What is the Government doing to promote older workers? A We have the Age Positive Campaign which is appealing to firms’better instincts and also their business instincts. What are some businessesplaying at when the customer base is getting older and yet they only employpeople from a certain section of the workforce? It doesn’t make any businesssense. There are some good examples of those who mostly employ older workers,not out of any benevolence, but because it makes good business sense. We’ve gone through a period when lots of people have been thrown out of workin their 50s. Some of that was about industrial change, but some of it wasstaff being made redundant from office jobs and struggling to find new work. The good news is that the employment rate of people aged between 50 andstate pension age has increased from 64.7 per cent in 1997 to 70.1 per cent in2003, so things are moving in the right direction. That 70 per cent is muchhigher than other European countries, but we want to increase it further. We need a debate about the nature of work in later life. I don’t thinkpeople necessarily have to stay in the same job, or even the same type of job. Q Are employers doing enough? A I don’t think employers are doing enough, although there are a fewfrontrunners showing the way. My own view is that outlawing age discriminationwill send out a very strong signal that this cannot be tolerated. My guess is that the most powerful driver in this will be full employmentbecause companies will need to fill vacancies. The challenge of fillingvacancies is good news for social inclusion because it means employers willbecome more grown-up about employing older workers, ethnic minorities anddisabled people. Q What should employers be doing? A Employers should be challenging HR departments to get rid ofunhelpful stereotypes of older workers, and asking questions about how thebusiness can open up to the issue. Q Should tax breaks or cash incentives be introduced for older workers? A In general terms, no. We have the New Deal for the over 50s, whichgives some financial inducements, but, that aside, I don’t think it’s a goodapproach. It’s more about attitudes and we need to get rid of some of theoutdated views. We’ve got to concentrate on lifelong learning so employees can be ahead ofthe game on skills and knowledge. They need to be able to re-skill and re-equipregardless of age. That in itself means challenging another stereotype thatpeople can’t develop new skills after a certain age. Q Will pension provisions change to reflect the UK’s demographic changes?A There’s a whole range of factors affecting pensions at the moment,and the Pensions Bill will try and bring more security into schemes. There’s ahuge issue around making people take pensions more seriously at an earlier age.We do have to get away from the idea that on a certain day, at a certainage, we automatically leave the workplace. We plan to make it easier foremployees that want to stay on at work earning a salary, but drawing a pensionas well. We need to enable people to stay in work and have good options. Q Are you worried about the number of companies closing the final salaryscheme? A What we are worried about is those employers who, when switchingfrom final salary to other pension arrangements, cut the employers contribution– that is a concern. Q Is the whole notion of the existing pension system dead? A The whole pensions agenda is becoming very important, and in partsof Europe, people are marching through the streets in demonstration becausethey are so concerned. It’s a hot political, social and employment issue and Ican only see it growing in importance. I think this is because the life cycle has changed hugely. Previousgenerations had a life focused on work that started at the age of 14 and endedonce you dropped. We’ve only had the idea of retirement for the past 100 years. The great bulkof life was about working but now it’s more about preparing for work througheducation and training. Work only fills a small part of our lifetime so we haveto look at how we fund the education and retirement periods. We have to get more contributions into schemes and we’ve got to drag somepeople and employers to that realisation. Q How will pensions change in the future? A Increasingly, when people are thinking about career moves they willhave to put training and pension provision at the top of the list, not just theusual things like wages and leave. From an employers point of view, pensions will become so much more importantto the overall package they offer to potential candidates. If we can get more employers to put pension contributions on pay slips andget more jobs to be advertised with the pensions package, then we will start tomake Britain a more pension literate country. Government boost for older workersOn 6 Jan 2004 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos.