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Employee performance - Managing without the default retirement age

The default retirement age (DRA) was phased out from April 2011 meaning age is no longer a fair reason to dismiss someone. Whilst a small number of companies will be able to objectively justify retaining a contractual retirement age most companies will have to ‘live’ without the option to terminate older workers employment for age reasons.

Previously the DRA provided both employer and employee with a controlled and dignified exit from working life. The main impact for companies of its removal is a shift in employer focus, from thinking employees are exiting from the business, to managing the performance of older workers.  With this new regime, companies need to be sure that they treat older employees in the same way as all other employees. So, here are a few thoughts on how you should be managing continuing employees who previously you might have just retired.

Having a fair and consistent capability / performance management procedure and process, is the starting point. This should ensure that employee performances can be monitored and measured to avoid any perceived discrimination both against older and younger employees. If you don’t have a procedure then get in touch?

With more emphasis being placed on the capability / performance management processes, as the route for dismissing an employee fairly, managers should be fully trained in following these procedures.  

You need to avoid falling in to the stereotype that poor performance is more likely to be associated with older workers.  Rather than focusing on employees who reach a particular age, you should focus on ensuring all employee performances and capabilities are of a good standard.

You should measure all employee performance against a known (and fair) standard, such as a job description, as well as against set targets. These should both be regularly reviewed and clearly communicated to the employee.  Training managers to carry out effective appraisals with employees and setting clear objectives is crucial. If your managers are not up to speed in this then drop us a line here?
If an employee is performing poorly you should take action to discuss this with them as soon as possible. Failing to address poor performance in older workers because or in expectation that they will be leaving soon to draw their pension, or because it may be seen as undignified, may well be discriminatory.

Ensure all under-performing employees are given sufficient training, support from their managers / colleagues and time to improve in their role before any decisions about termination are taken.  Remember that age should no longer be a barrier to organising training, promotions, assignment to longer term projects, proper salary adjustments, etc.

Have regular conversations with all employees about your expectations of them, their performance and their future plans.  Whilst trying not to be too bureaucratic, it is advisable to keep basic records of conversations, objectives and progress – see the section below for more information.

You do not have to treat people of different ages exactly the same, however, you should treat everyone fairly and consistently ensuring no favourable or infavourable treatment of an employee because of their age.

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We can help you hire and retain the best employees, manage your employees more successfully, and improve employee motivation. Whatever your HR outsourcing needs, In2HR can assist any company within the Thames Valley areas, including Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxon and Surrey. So why not contact us today.

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