UK

Workers welcome plans to axe fixed retirement age

Rules allowing employers to force staff to retire at 65 are to be axed by October 2011. It is good news for those nearing state pension age who want to keep working, but too late for others.

As people live longer, healthier and more active lives, many are simply not ready to collect their gold watch and adjust to life in the slow lane.

They find the cut-off date for retirement brutally sudden and fear being cast off on to the "scrap heap".

While some are able to stay in their jobs beyond 65, others have had no choice but to leave.

It is those people who will particularly welcome the government's proposed scrapping of the default retirement age.

The charity Age UK said it was a "huge victory", while Nesta, a body which runs 11 projects tackling the issue, said older people contribute "immeasurably" to the economy and society.

John White, postman

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Image caption John White was forced to leave his job as a postman after 11 years service

John White has just turned 70 and been retired for almost a year. It was a date he remembers well - his 69th birthday.

He keeps active as a volunteer at a school and a day centre for the elderly, and delivers leaflets one day a week for a bit of extra money.

But the truth is, he would rather still be doing his rounds as a postman - a job he held for 11 years in the Portslade area of Brighton.

While Royal Mail allowed people to work beyond 65, they started employing more part-time staff in a cost-cutting drive, and Mr White had to leave last July under default retirement age rules.

The married father-of-two said he and others appealed, but to no avail.

"It makes you feel pretty rotten, as if you're stuck on the shelf and put to one side," he said.

'Like being sacked'

"It's not a very nice thing at all. I've never been sacked from a job in my life but this felt like I was being sacked."

He said he wanted to keep working because he loved the job and needed the money - his previous company's pension scheme went bust.

It also allowed him to meet lots of people out in the fresh air and keep fit, he added.

He said he welcomed the government's announcement, which, although too late for him, would help others in his position.

Knud Moller, statistician

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Image caption Mr Moller says he felt a lack of purpose after retirement

Originally from Denmark, the 68-year-old moved to the UK in 1974 to take up his job as a statistician for Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

In his 33 years of service, he prepared statistics on land use and the local population for four national censuses.

When he was forced to leave in 2007, aged 65, Mr Moller was helping the Office for National Statistics prepare for the 2011 census. He appealed against the decision four times.

"I felt very disappointed, especially as at first I had been given to understand I had a good chance of continuing as a consultant," he said.

"One good thing about retirement is you can do whatever you want to do, when you want to do it, but you do miss a purpose in life.

"I like to serve, to know my service is purposeful and useful - it makes me more fulfilled as a person."

Mr Moller, from Mount Pleasant in Cheshire, now works as a freelancer for private businesses and charities.

Christine Hall, college administrator

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Image caption Mrs Hall hopes to retire before 65, then work part-time

At 58, the York College administrator is already looking ahead to retirement - a prospect she finds a little daunting.

She has worked at her college for 15 years, and dreads the thought of being cast off and made to feel "useless".

She welcomed the plans to scrap the default retirement age because it allowed people to negotiate part-time work beyond 65.

"I wouldn't want to sit at home, I'm quite a sociable person and hate the thought of the door closing at 65," she said.

"I like the interaction with people and working with IT. Many of the people that speak to you about retiring are very young, so their concept of what happens to you is not that fair. It is the finality of it that's quite frightening."

The married mother-of-two, from Bishopthorpe in York, sets the timetables for 2,000 of the college's 6,000 students.

She hopes to retire just before 65, then work part-time, either with youth groups or for a charity.

Ann Wood, head teacher

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Image caption Mrs Wood says she feels excited about the prospect of continuing work

After 43 years in education - the past 12 as a primary school head - change comes hard.

Ms Wood, 64, has been retired less than a week and is "taking stock" for a couple of months to consider what to do next.

"I was at retiring age at 60 and wasn't ready to finish. There's so much I can still do, I'm no different whatsoever," she says.

"I'm mentally as agile, or more so, with bags of experience. It would be a great shame if that wasn't put to some use for myself and for other people."

The married mother-of-two, from Woodford in Cheshire, made an emotional departure from Broomwood primary school in nearby Trafford on Friday.

She said she was under no pressure to leave from either her education authority or school governors. But there was pressure from society, she said, with people questioning whether you should go on.

"I'm aware I'm probably the oldest head in Trafford, which brings along pressures," she said. "I welcome this announcement, it's time the pressure was taken off people."

She is considering training head teachers or perhaps working as a magistrate.

Image copyright (C) British Broadcasting Corporation
Image caption The baby boom of the 1960s is turning into a pensions nightmare for the state as the number of those in work and paying for the state pension shrinks

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