Age-old question 1

November 24, 2006

Guinevere Lohneis, John James and their associate lecturer colleagues at the Open University make two claims (Letters, November 9): first, that many experienced and dedicated tutors will no longer be employed; and second, that the OU's implementation of the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 amounts to age discrimination. Both claims are wide of the mark.

Since the regulations were implemented, 492 associate lecturers with retirement dates up to September 30, 2007, have been informed by the university of their retirement date and their new right to request to continue working. Some 239 have so far submitted such a request. Of these, 147 have received responses, and all but one have been approved. I am aware of no more than 20 other requests with which we will not be able to comply.

The more serious claim is that the OU is being ageist. This is not the case. The law prohibits less favourable treatment in employment on grounds of age, and the OU's policy is designed to ensure that we comply with this requirement. The regulations also enable employers to set a retirement date. Any organisation has to be able to maintain a turnover rate in its staff to ensure that it remains dynamic in a rapidly changing environment. Without a retirement date, turnover would quickly begin to decline. Before we can remove it, we have to understand how we would maintain the turnover rate. This will mean new staff management procedures that require careful planning and consultation. This could not have been achieved in the short time allowed to implement the regulations.

Work is under way to identify the conditions under which the OU would be in position to consider abandoning the retirement date.

Philip Marsh.
Director of human resources. Open University

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