How to tell an aging employee it’s time to go

By on March 6, 2013

The Pope has decided to relinquish his role for the good of the Church at the age of 85. This is undoubtedly a courageous decision, but not one which people take lightly, or sometimes, at all, writes Rebecca Burn-Callander.

The global workforce is getting older and older. People are working into their seventies because of improving health and increasing financial need, and people who are planning to retire do not feel ready to give up work. What can employers do if employees fail to jump? Can they push? The short answer is ‘no’, but retirement expectations can be managed, although there are some risks.

Chatting to your 60+ team

If there is no performance failure, misconduct issue or redundancy taking place within the business, then the only conclusion to draw is that the conversation has been instigated because the employee has reached a certain age. That would be a clear breach of the law which requires all employees to be treated equally. Employers that selectively apply these discussions risk facing legal action being taken.

This places employers in a very difficult situation; on one hand, it is rather bizarre to be having a retirement age discussion with employees at the beginning to mid-part of their careers; but on the other, it is important to have an on-going conversation with employees about retirement, long before they reach the apposite age.

The appraisal

A fairly formalised annual appraisal system would enable an employer to discuss performance, career expectations, long-term goals, health and retirement on an annual basis with all employees, and allow for the substance of that discussion to change as the employee progresses through their career.

For example, the discussion with an employee at the beginning of their career might be around training and promotion. A discussion with an employee towards the end of their career might be around handover of clients and contacts, and a mentoring of more junior employees. It may even extend to size of pension pot and retirement plans.

Avoiding unpleasant situations is all about laying the groundwork and enabling both sides to understand each other’s expectations around all aspects of the employment relationship, which include retirement.

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