Tim Bell: If staff want to carry on, don't stand in their way

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The Independent Online

I'm 68 years old and and have absolutely no interest in retiring. Three years ago I went to the board to ask them to let me work after 65. And I'm in a very fortunate position because I am chairman of a company which allows people to work beyond the retirement age.

It has always seemed to me to make perfect sense to keep people who want to carry on working later into life. If someone has something to offer a company or a business, then both will benefit from an extension of that relationship.

Making it legal to pension people off at an arbitrary age only gives employers a reason to cut experienced and valuable staff from the payroll.

I am philosophically opposed to a default retirement age because I believe in freedom of the individual and hate the Government telling me how I should run my life. That doesn't mean I believe in uniform equality for all.

Didn't Milton Friedman, the American economist, say that "a society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. But a society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both".

I work in the private sector and in order to compete in a free market place you have to have the flexibility to employ all ages. It doesn't matter if they are in their sixties, seventies, eighties or even nineties.

At our company we start talking to people before they reach retirement. If they want to carry on, then we don't stand in their way.

I don't think I have stopped someone from carrying on working. It might be different if I thought they couldn't do the job any more, but I would talk to them about that decision to make sure they agreed.

I hope someone will do the same for me one day, but it's not something I am actively considering now. I've got a few more years left in this business.

Lord Bell is chairman of Chime Communications which includes the PR specialist Bell Pottinger. He was a PR adviser to Margaret Thatcher in her three general election victories.