Search for Britain's oldest employee

A CAMPAIGN to find Britain's oldest worker is to be launched this week by an employment minister, to underline the Government's commitment to encourage people to work beyond their normal age of retirement.

Ann Widdecombe, 46, a doughty right-winger, is leading a government drive to encourage more people to stay on at work after their normal retirement age, if they wish to.

She warned of the 'anger, frustration and bitterness' caused by ageism, and called on employers to adopt a five- point plan to encourage older workers: remove age bars from job advertisements; welcome applications from older people; select on ability; offer flexible working arrangements; and develop and train all staff regardless of age.

The Government announced in the Budget its intention to merge women's and men's retirement at 65 years by 2020, but ministers are keen to help more people put off their retirement.

It will be seen by critics as a Scrooge-like attempt to cut the social security costs of the state pension. By continuing in work, women eligible for the state pension at 60 and men at 65 would voluntarily put off drawing their benefits.

Miss Widdecombe, who chairs an advisory group on older workers, is mounting the campaign, called 'Getting On' to show it is in employers' interests to adopt policies towards employing the best older workers. To draw attention to that aim, she has told officials she wants to find the oldest worker in Britain, who is carrying on working voluntarily beyond pensionable age.

Miss Widdecombe believes that with people living longer, more want to work beyond their retirement age. Privately she would have preferred a more radical solution to the pension issue, with the state retirement age lifted to 67 years. She has already raised the age at which people can be retrained on government schemes from 59 to 63 years old.

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