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.


Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
peopleSwimmer also charged with crossing double land lines and excessive speeding
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
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

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

    Trust Accountant - Kent

    NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

    Graduate Recruitment Consultant - 2013/14 Grads - No Exp Needed

    £18000 - £20000 per annum + OTE £30000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

    Law Costs

    Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - Law Costs Draftsperson - NICHE...

    Day In a Page

    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
    Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

    Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

    Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
    Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

    Education, education, education

    TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
    It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

    It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

    So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
    This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

    Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

    Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
    We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

    Inside the E15 'occupation'

    We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
    Witches: A history of misogyny

    Witches: A history of misogyny

    The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
    Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
    'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style