Wednesday, December 17, 2008

United Kingdom: Government Reports on Flexible Retirement, Seeks More Comments

The United Kingdom's Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has released the results of its consultation on flexible retirement and, in turn, has announced a new consultation to explore this issue further. According to DWP, the "most obvious conclusion from this exercise" is that the age discrimination regulations "continue to cause some unease and uncertainty for employers, trustees, professional advisers, members and their representatives alike."

According to DWP, the age rules were intended to combat the worst aspects of discrimination, and "it would be counterproductive to introduce a regulatory regime that subverted the Government’s wider policy of ensuring that older people have opportunities to carry on working and earning towards retirement." Accordingly, DWP wants to promote fairness, not set impossible standards. Thus, DWP now seeks "to consult on alternative options for a further exemption in respect of flexible retirement arrangements to mitigate any disincentive effect." Specifically, DWP is asking, among other things:
Question 1: The definition of ‘flexible retirement’ excludes members continuing in the same grade with the same hours, but who take all or part of their age-related benefits. Do you (or employers or schemes you advise) enable workers to continue to work after NPA in the same grade and with the same hours whilst taking their age related benefits? If so, does the practice cause significant problems for the scheme and are you (or any of the employers or schemes you advise) considering withdrawing the policy? If not, please explain why the practice has not been adopted.

Question 4: We welcome further evidence to determine the extent to which the Age Regulations deter employers from offering flexible retirement arrangements. Do you (or the employers or schemes you advise) currently provide flexible retirement arrangements to staff? If so, are you (or the employers or schemes you advise) considering withdrawing or limiting those arrangements? Why? If you (or the employers or schemes you advise) do not offer flexible retirement arrangements, what is the reason for this? Would an exemption from the Age Regulations lead you (or the employers or schemes you advise) to change your current practice?
Sources: Department for Work and Pensions "Flexible Retirement and Pension Provision" (December 16, 2008); Professional Pensions "DWP launches age discrimination consultation" (December 17, 2008)

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