Leader: A win-win situation

February 16, 2007

The decision of the Teachers' Pension Scheme to allow staff to work part time and claim a portion of their pension after the age of 55 is undoubtedly a good thing, though it seems that the change is not widely known. It will encourage those who wish to stay longer in the sector to do so and enable universities to retain academics whom they might otherwise have lost. According to recent polls by the University and College Union, 50 per cent of over-50s wish to retire early, but a significant minority of staff aged over 55 - 25 per cent - feel discriminated against because of their age. This reform will go some way to addressing the concerns of both groups.

The main benefit from the employees' point of view is that it allows them to reduce their hours and/or duties while still earning, claiming some of their pension and retaining contact with their department. In essence, it offers a gradual shift to retirement. There are two advantages for university managers: it will give them more flexibility in their efforts to persuade high-quality staff in shortage subjects to stay on; and it will allow them to address what in the US is charmingly referred to as "promotion blockage" as senior staff relinquish some of their duties.

Of course, flexible retirement will require the consent of both employer and employee. And the Universities Superannuation Scheme, although it is considering a similar reform, has not yet signed up to it. But any measure that increases the opportunities for staff while simultaneously widening the options for managers is as welcome as it is rare.

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