Zak Hussein/PA Wire
Legislation that was supposed to outlaw ageism in the workplace, by making it impossible to force people to retire because of their age, has actually made life harder for people over the age of 50.
This group already suffers from massive discrimination, and a more serious long-term unemployment headache than any other age group. And according to some people, the new laws have made things even worse.
Out of work
The findings come from The Age and Employment Network, which found that 37% of older people who are out of work have been in this position for a long time, and are struggling to get back into the workplace. This is a higher percentage than for any other age group.
It isn't for want of trying. The survey found that overwhelmingly this group wanted to work - driven by financial need, a desire to feel valued and the social interaction work brings. It also found that they were 'worried' or 'desperate' about not working.
Chris Ball, Chief Executive of TAEN, said that a major part of the reason so many of them struggled to find work was that ageism remains rife in the UK. The research found that 83% of job seekers over the age of 50 felt that recruiters thought they were too old. Some 72% said recruiters thought they were 'over-qualified' or 'too experienced'.
He said: "The majority of older jobseekers continue struggling against deeply embedded structural disadvantages and ingrained ageist attitudes in finding work."
Successive governments have been trying to make this sort of discrimination illegal. It is now illegal to discriminate on the grounds of age when you are recruiting, and in the workplace. It is also illegal to force anyone to retire because of their age.
When this change was introduced, the lobby for older people were celebrating. Saga said at the time that "By keeping more over 65s economically active, we will be improving the medium term job prospects for the economy... A social revolution seems underway, and the more people embrace these opportunities, the better for all of us."
- 1. No savings
Figures from charity Age UK show that 29% of those over 60 feel uncertain or negative about their current financial situation - with millions facing poverty and hardship. Even though saving for retirement is not much fun, the message is therefore that having to rely on dwindling state benefits in retirement is even less so. To avoid ending up in this situation, adviser Hargreaves Lansdown recommends saving a proportion of your salary equal to half your age at the time of starting a pension. In other words, if you are 30 when you start a pension, you should put in 15% throughout your working life. If you start at 24, saving 12% of your salary a year should produce a similar return.</p>
- 2. Unsecured debts
Around 427,000 households in the over-70 age groups are either three months behind with a debt repayment or subject to some form of debt action such as insolvency, according to the Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS). Its figures also show that those aged 60 or older who came to the CCCS for help last year owed an average of £22,330. Whether you are retired or not, the best way to tackle debt problems is head on. Free counselling services from the likes of CCCS and Citizens Advice can help with budgeting and dealing with creditors. Importantly, they can also conduct a welfare benefits check to make sure you are receiving the pension credit, housing and council tax benefits, attendance and disability living allowances you are entitled to.</p>
- 3. Mortgage debts
Recent research from <a href="http://globalcare.aviva.co.uk/">Aviva</a> found that 17% of over-55s are still paying off a mortgage, with an average of £63,555 left to clear. And figures from equity release lender More 2 Life suggest that more than 100,000 over-65s are still struggling to pay off their mortgages. The pre-recession popularity of interest-only mortgages and the poor performance of linked investment vehicles, as well as the average age of a first-time buyer rising to 35, are among the reasons why. But meeting monthly mortgage repayments during retirement can have a big impact on day-to-day living costs such as food and household bills. Ways to avoid being caught out include taking out a mortgage over a shorter term that leaves you well clear by retirement age and overpaying on your mortgage when you can. If it is too late for that, downsizing could be an option, while equity release plans could also be worth a look.</p>
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- 4. Huge care costs
The cost of a room in a care home in many parts of the country is now over £30,000 a year, according to figures from Prestige Nursing and Care. So even if the prime minister announces a cap on care costs - last year the economist Andrew Dilnot called for a new system of funding which would mean that no one would pay more than £35,000 for lifetime care - families will still face huge accommodation costs. Ways to cut this cost include opting for home care rather than a care home. Jonathan Bruce, managing director of Prestige Nursing and Care, said: "For older people who may need care in the shorter term, home care is an option which allows people to maintain their independence for longer while living in their own home and should be included in the cap." However, the only other answer is to save more while you can.</p>
- 5. Fraud
Older Britons are often targeted by unscrupulous criminals - especially if they have a bit of money put away. For example, many over 50s were victims of the so-called courier scam that tricked into keying their pin numbers into their phones and handing their cards to "couriers" who visited their homes. It parted consumers from £1.5 million in under two years. Detective Chief Inspector Paul Barnard, head of the bank sponsored dedicated cheque and plastic crime unit (DCPCU), said: "Many of us feel confident that we can spot fraudsters, but this type of crime can be sophisticated and could happen to anyone." The same is true of boiler room scams that target wealthier Britons with money to invest, offering "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunities to snap up shares at bargain prices. Tactics to watch out for include cold calling, putting you under pressure to pay up or lose the opportunity for good, and claiming to have insider information that they are prepared to share with you.</p>
- 6. Unpaid taxes
The average UK pensioner household faces a £111,400 tax bill in retirement as increasing longevity means pensioners are living on average up to 19 years past the age of 65, according to figures from MetLife. And every year in retirement adds an extra £5864 in direct and indirect taxes based on current tax rates to the costs for the average pensioner household. You can be forced to go bankrupt if you fail to pay your taxes, so it is vital to factor these costs into your retirement planning.It is also important to check that you are receiving all the benefits and tax breaks you are entitled to if you want to make the most of your retirement cash.</p>
- 7. Rule changes
Even the best laid plans can be derailed should the government change pension rules - especially for those already in retirement. Take income drawdown. About 400,000 individuals have set up their pensions on this basis that allows them to keep their fund intact while drawing an income, rather than buying a poor value annuity. The income they can take is therefore linked to the 'GAD rate' – set by the Government Actuary's Department and determined by the prevailing yield from a 15-year Government bond (gilt). But despite 15-year gilt yields falling sharply, the government last year slashed the maximum income that could be drawn down from 120% to 100% of the GAD rate due to fears that savers were depleting their pension pots too quickly. Many pensioners have seen their incomes plunge by more than 50% as a result - and there is very little they can do about it.</p>
Sadly this celebration seems vastly premature. Ball pointed out: "These obstacles continue more than six years after discrimination against older jobseekers was outlawed by the 2006 Age Regulations and two years after the Default Retirement Age, allowing people to be forcibly retired at 65, was ended."
The research showed that the legislation had failed to make a dent on discrimination. Only one in ten job hunters over the age of 50 felt it had made a positive difference, with 47% believing it hadn't been beneficial at all.
In fact, there is a school of thought that making it impossible to force someone to retire on the grounds of age makes employers nervous about employing older people. The idea is that they are concerned they may be stuck with them as they head into their 60s and 70s, and cannot afford to retire.
One respondent to the survey summed it up, saying: "Given that compulsory retirement is now not available I suspect that many employers are reluctant to recruit older staff who, they fear, may present motivational and even attendance issues in future."
Another commented that removal of the default retirement age "has been counterproductive as it has made employers reluctant to take on older workers they may never get rid of."
Ball said that the findings indicated that the government urgently needs to deal with the failings in legislation. He said: "There is an urgent need to review the extent of both direct and indirect age discrimination in the recruitment process. It seems clear that the law is being flouted with impunity and there is a presumption that, 'of course employers will discriminate by age if they wish to so.'"