A report in Personnel Today of research from Norton Rose shows that almost 50% of employers believe that the removal of the default retirement age (DRA) will lead to fewer opportunities for younger people. Set alongside the latest labour force stats showing younger people suffering worst in the jobs market, you could be forgiven for thinking this was a bad decision on behalf of the Government.
Recruitment freezes have accompanied headcount reductions; young people not already in work are competing for jobs with more experienced people newly looking for work.
Journalists have succumbed to the irresistible temptation to brand this a ‘lost generation’. But, as a wise (if cynical) person once said to me, ‘You can prove anything with facts’.
In the same week, John Philpott, chief economist at the CIPD told delegates at the Liberal Democrat conference that most unemployed young people would find jobs when the economy improved. “A lot of talk about a ‘lost generation’ is slightly misleading.” He thinks that people made redundant at older ages are at greater risk and will struggle to get back into work.
A more worrying finding in the Norton Rose research is that 75% of employers questioned said that they had given managers no training or support on the changes. Managers are at the front line when it comes to implementing changes in employment law. Ensuring they are confident and up to speed is demanding on employers, but the risks of not doing so are tremendous.
The negative impact of any changes can be mitigated with timely training, this is no more so than changes to the retirement rules. In the vast majority of cases, employees want to retire and will certainly want to move on well before their performance declines. Retirement is such a blunt tool, in contrast to good performance management, which is so much more effective. The main barrier to operating successfully without a retirement age is the culture. Challenging long-held assumptions about the link between performance and age, making clear the difference between pension age and retirement age are the biggest barriers to change. For many employers, a communications campaign was the first step in making the change.
The real risk to youth employment is lazy, poor management. It is that which will harm growth, jobs, productivity and so on - for people of all ages. Allowing people to continue to be productive members of society can never be a bad thing for anyone.
- Rachel Krys