From education to employment

Hypocrisy evident within OU

Age Concern has attacked The Open University claiming that it enforces discriminative practices against its employees.

The University, which has just completed its “Research into Age Discrimination Project”, holds a compulsory retirement age that forces employees to retire once they reach the age of 65 ““ “regardless of their need or desire to work”.

Andrew Harrop, Head of Policy at Age Concern, said: “Mandatory retirement ages are immoral, unfair and completely senseless. It is outrageous to base employment policies on misplaced stereotypes and prejudice. For a place of learning not to allow people over 65 to continue working in unacceptable”.

They also contend that many lecturers at the OU would be unable to complete their work from the age of 62, as research contracts tend to be planned three years in advance, and many post-graduate students require “long-term” arrangements with supporting lecturers.

Age Concern, along with its membership organisation Heyday, has confronted the Government’s decision to permit forced retirement since the Law came into place on 1st October 2006 and the case is now going to the European Court of Justice. However, many public organizations, such as the OU, have either retained or introduced forced retirement.

Andrew Harrop explained: “The new legislation categorically does not require Employers to introduce mandatory retirement ages. Employers with good performance management practices do not need to rely on discriminatory and clumsy mandatory retirement ages. HR procedures can actually be simplified by removing a policy of compulsory retirement”.

If Age Concern are successful within their case, many of those who have been forced to retire or who have brought claims in the Employment Tribunal within three months of their dismissal, could be entitled to compensation, and are encouraged to seek advice as soon as possible.

Mr Harrop added: “Mandatory retirement ages should not be used to hide bad HR practices. Academics should be employed on the basis of their skills and regardless of their age. We hope students and academics alike will make their feelings known to university leaders”.

Honor Whiteman.

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