Last week in Parliament, I raised the issue of age discrimination in the workplace. This is an issue that affects many older workers. Like any discrimination, it can belittle, humiliate, embarrass and drive people out of their job. While age discrimination in general is unlawful, there is a loophole that allows lawful age discrimination in relation to work benefits – like health insurance, private health cover and life insurance. Once a person reaches retirement age, those benefits can simply be stopped at the discretion of an employer, and there’s nothing an older worker can do about it.
That means that an older worker is not on the same terms and conditions as a younger worker doing exactly the same job. It means that a worker is paid differently the day before their 66th birthday to the day after it. It means that while a younger worker has, for example, access to fast private healthcare to get back to work quickly, including for a workplace injury, that is not available to someone older.
This is unfair and not right. So I’ve started a campaign in Parliament to change the law on this. It’s been inspired by a Deal resident, Stephen, who has worked with his company for nearly 30 years as an exemplary employee and had this happen to him when he reached his 66th birthday.
With the state pension age going up, it is vital that workers are treated with respect and fairness in older age. If the state age pension goes up, then people will need to work for longer. That means investment in skills training for older people.
For women, the changes in the state working age are particularly severe. Someone my age had a pension age of 60 when I started working and paying national insurance contributions. For those my age the state pension age is now 67 years old, and it could go up to 68 years old. As I said in Parliament, state pension age is like one of those Scottish mountains. It is an optical illusion. That as we get ever closer, it seems that there is just that bit further to go. That makes it hard to make the right career and financial choices, to have the right amount of savings for older life. In short, it risks that people are poorer and find it harder in their older years, and that isn’t right or fair.
Currently changes to the state pension age are made only ten years before retirement. That makes it hard to plan. I have called for changes to take place in the first one-third of a working life, so that career, savings, skills and life choices can be better planned.
With people working longer, we must end age discrimination in the workplace, and that’s what I’m working hard in Parliament to do.