David Prosser: Older workers: the last victims of employers' discrimination

What makes older workers different from black, gay or disabled members of staff? The answer is that they are the only group of people against whom it remains perfectly legal for employers to discriminate.

What makes older workers different from black, gay or disabled members of staff? The answer is that they are the only group of people against whom it remains perfectly legal for employers to discriminate.

The Government's launch this week of new laws to close this loophole should therefore have been excellent news. The trouble is that "Opportunity Age - Meeting the Challenges of Ageing in the 21st Century", as the strategy was grandly entitled, comprehensively fails to do what it says on the tin.

Pensions minister Malcolm Wicks boasted at the launch of the new strategy: "It is about allowing people to work longer if they want to and ending the nonsense of good, able workers being thrown on the scrapheap just because of their age."

Unfortunately, the reality does not live up to this hype. All that's happening on age discrimination is that from 2006, employers will have to consider requests from staff who want to go on working beyond the age of 65.

However, under the new laws, employers will still be allowed to get rid of staff over the age of 65 simply on the basis of their age. Older staff will continue to have almost no employment rights - no automatic entitlement to redundancy if they are laid off, for example, and no option to appeal dismissals to industrial tribunals.

What campaigners such as Help the Aged really want is abolition of mandatory retirement ages. Companies should no longer be able to force staff to give up work once they hit a particular age, the charity says.

All this means in practice is that older workers would get the same protections in law as their younger colleagues. Companies would still be able to reduce staff numbers or get rid of workers not up to the job.

But in the case of older employees, they would have to pay redundancy, or prove their work was sub-standard, exactly the same rules as apply to staff under the age of 65.

This isn't just an issue for people who want to work on in the future. Up to a million people over the age of 65 are already in paid employment - none of them has any legal protection from unscrupulous bosses.

The size of this problem is set to double, however. Wicks says the Government wants to get a million more older workers back into employment. And there will be cash rewards on offer: not least, a lump sum of up to £30,000 for those people who choose to delay drawing their state pension by five years.

Ministers are desperate to defuse the demographic timebomb. The Office for National Statistics says that by 2007, there will be more people in Britain over state pension age than aged under 16. The bill for state pensions continues to rise, and private pension providers are in crisis, too.

The solution is for people to work longer. When Britain's retirement ages were set at current levels after the end of the Second World War, workers reaching the age of 65 could expect, on average, to live about four more years. Today, the figure is more like 15.

However, Wicks can't have things all his own way. If he expects people to take on extra responsibilities - to work for longer as part of a solution to the pensions crisis - he must give them extra rights. Above all, older workers deserve the same basic employment protections as everyone else.

* If you're travelling abroad this Easter, think very carefully about how you spend money when overseas. Credit card analyst Moneysupermarket says Britons waste £344m a year on unnecessary charges when using their plastic on holiday.

Two fees in particular catch travellers out. Many credit card companies charge a handling fee of up to 2.75 per cent of the value of all purchases made overseas. In addition, while all credit card issuers charge for cash withdrawals, many plastic providers levy 2 per cent extra for money taken out of foreign ATMs.

Savvy travellers can beat the charges trap by carrying the cheapest possible plastic while abroad. For the record, Moneysupermarket says Nationwide and Lombard Direct are the market leaders.

Water bills soar - but you could pay less

Don't be too pleased about the beginning of spring: better weather may be on its way, but April will also bring some nasty increases in your household bills.

Council tax rises of about 4 per cent were announced this week, but water bills are to rise by almost three times that rate, with the average household in England and Wales set to pay an increase of 11.8 per cent.

The good news is that there is a way for many people to reduce their water bills. Just one in four households currently has a water meter fitted, even though many people would be better off if they only paid for the water they actually consume.

This is because fixed water bills are calculated on the basis of the rateable value of your home. No account is taken of who lives in the house. So, if you use less water than the average property - because you live by yourself, for example - then you may be able to save money by switching to a meter.

Your water company should be able to advise on whether a meter will save you money. Alternatively, you can use an internet site such as Uswitch.com, which provides free calculators to help you work out whether a meter will cut your bills. The company reckons that many households could save £125.

There's nothing to lose. Water companies don't charge to install meters. And if you don't end up saving money after all, you have the right to switch back to fixed bills, as long as you make the request within 12 months.


Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

    £600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

    The benefits of being in Recruitment at SThree...

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...

    Test Analyst - UAT - Credit Risk

    £280 - £300 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Test Analyst, Edinburgh, Credit Ris...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

    Day In a Page

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little