In the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006, the United Kingdom government set a ‘default’ retirement age of 65 years after which an employer can compulsorily retire workers, and made it obligatory for employers to consider the ‘business case’ for any employees' requests to continue in work after the default age. This is a ‘light touch’ approach to reducing age discrimination at the workplace and to changing the established ‘culture of retirement’. While encouraging productive staff to remain in post beyond 65 years of age, it leaves implementation of the policies and achievement of their goals to the discretion of employers. This article explores how British employers are adapting to the law, by drawing from interviews with 70 managers from a wide range of organisations. Overall the collected evidence shows the limits of a business case approach as a means of changing employers' practices. It was found that line managers, rather than senior managers or human resources specialists, generally decide which employees can stay employed after age 65 years. Consequently, the research suggests that opportunities for workers aged 65 or more years to stay employed are more the result of individual arrangements with their immediate managers than changes in an organisation's policies and practices. Altogether, the evidence suggests that consolidation rather than eradication of the established retirement culture has occurred.
(Accepted November 03 2009)
(Online publication January 20 2010)