Human Resources

Managing Without a Retirement Age

Birkbeck managers will need to move beyond the era of mandatory retirement now that the Government has abolished the default retirement age. New challenges and possibilities lie ahead to harness the talents of older people who are able and willing to work longer.

Working on beyond what is currently perceived as a normal retirement age will increasingly be the norm; the idea of a normal retirement age itself may in future have less meaning. Many people are already working longer anyway, over three quarters of a million people in the UK over 65 were in work in 2010 and there is every indication that these numbers will increase. Of those in work and beyond the state pension age, nearly 60% of men and nearly 70% of women were working on a part time basis.

Challenges for Birkbeck Managers

There are two sets of challenges for Birkbeck managers:

In the shorter term, managers need to consider:

• Arrangements for people approaching retirement and how these mesh with workplace discussions on performance; developmental or training needs; future plans; and future performance issues.In the longer term, managers need to consider:

• How to shape jobs, workplaces, working conditions and employees’ attitudes to careers to make working later possible for employees.

• How to encourage individual employees to take responsibility for their own employability so that they have the best chance to work for longer if they choose to do so.

• How to successfully manage the transition from work to retirement using a range of flexible working options in a way that suits both the organisation and the employee.

Workplace Discussions

The Acas guidance on managing without a retirement age encourages all employers and managers to have workplace discussions to consider performance objectives and outcomes; training and development needs; and future plans and aims and aspirations. As far as possible, this should be undertaken as part of the progress and development review (PDR) or workplace discussion for all employees. Ensuring that performance and development reviews take place on a systematic basis is increasingly important for organisations without a fixed retirement date. Birkbeck is no different in this respect. With no fixed retirement age it is important for managers to ensure that all employees have the opportunity to have a discussion on their future plans in the short and medium term. For older employees, this discussion can then lead on to a joint discussion about planning for retirement.   These discussions are not contractually binding but will provide an opportunity to indicate what the employee’s future plans might involve. For academic staff, the PDR or workplace discussion is typically undertaken by the Assistant Dean for the relevant subject area or a nominee where the academic member of staff requests that another colleague undertakes the PDR or workplace discussion. It is the responsibility of the Assistant Dean for the relevant subject area to ensure that the workplace discussion for their academic colleagues takes place.

What should I do?

• Ensure that all your employees have a progress and development review PDR or workplace discussion.

• Ensure that there is a discussion with all of your employees on their future plans in the short and medium term.

• Use the discussion on future plans as an opportunity to discuss on a joint basis retirement options if this is relevant.

You should consider the following issues in the discussion on future plans:

Manager Issues

• Priorities of the School or Professional Service Department for the future;

• Ways in which the job may develop and how the employee can contribute to this;

• Consideration of a possible business case for changing or flexible working patterns;

• Consideration of possible training and development opportunities;

• Older workers have a range of accumulated skills and experiences.

Employee Issues

• The ways in which the employee sees their role developing;

• Employee aspirations and plans to contribute in different ways in the School or Professional Service Department;

• Personal circumstances that may include consideration of retirement or flexible working as an option to explore;

• Consideration of pension options. It is likely that there will be greater scope to combine flexible working and partial pension payment over time.  The USS pension scheme has introduced a flexible retirement option and further details are available via finance.

Further Information

Please see the attached guidance for workplace discussions (Appendix 1) and a Q&A for managers on managing without a retirement age (Appendix 2).

Further information is available from Acas on the following link:

back to top
The HR team is based on the first floor of Egmont House
Postal address: Human Resources, Birkbeck, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX