Managing Older Employees
There is no single fixed retirement age for employees in Ireland, however currently people can receive an old age pension at 65, with certain conditions and this has become the benchmark for retirement in Ireland. There are proposals in place by the government whereby the age when you can draw a pension will be raised to 66 by 2014, 67 by 2021 and 68 by 2028.
Effectively anybody currently under the age of 49 may have to wait until they are 68 to draw the old age pension. Some industries or bodies have their own compulsory retirement ages specific to them but many of these have altered in recent years with many job-entrants within the last few years having only a minimum retirement age set.
It is important when considering retiring an employee to look at any misconceptions that might skew your thinking. The most common argument raised for the need to retire an individual is health and safety. However, when considered properly there is rarely any real foundation to this. An employee is unlikely to suddenly become a health and safety risk overnight. When looked at more closely what is really meant is that there is a belief that they are no longer capable.
People age differently and you could have someone working at age 65 who is much more capable than their younger colleagues. You shouldn’t make assumptions that people under 65 are risk free and people over 65 are walking hazards. The common perceptions that cognitive abilities disintegrate with age are unfounded and employers may deprive themselves of a valuable human resource in discriminating against the older generation of workers, and restricting recruitment to so called “prime-age” workers.
Having a retirement age is a good motivator for a company to consider how someone is performing in the role as she/he gets closer to retirement age, but if a company dogmatically follows a retirement age then it risks cutting itself off from some very competent and capable staff at a time when it can ill afford to lose them. When used properly, the process can help both the company and the employee consider whether or not they want the relationship to continue and if so, on what terms. This works best if it flows on from annual appraisals so that companies are regularly reviewing how employees are performing rather than just assuming there will be a problem when they get older.
Currently, to retire an employee at the age specified in their contract, companies need to follow some form of retirement process. To give the employee enough notice of the retirement and the chance to put forward their own case to remain in employment, ideally you should give the employee between 6 to 12 months written notice of the fact that you intend to retire them, the date on which retirement will take place and the right to appeal the decision and request to continue working beyond that date.
If an employee wants to continue working beyond retirement then you should ask them to make a formal written request to do so stating if they wish to continue working indefinitely, for a fixed period or until a set date as well as outlining the reasons why they wish to remain on. Specify when the request should be made, but ideally this should be made but within 3 to 6 months of the intended retirement date to give employers enough time to deal with the situation before retirement is due to take place.
If an employee requests to continue working beyond retirement then you should hold a meeting with them to discuss their request and then write to them setting out whether or not their request has been accepted and, if so, for how long their employment will continue.
- Don’t assume that someone over 65 is incapable
- Regularly appraise performance for all staff
- Genuinely consider if retirement is necessary
- Discuss the matter with your employee
- Consider your older employees as an asset rather than a problem to deal with