MP campaigns against age discrimination on workplace benefits

A Conservative MP is to present proposed legislation to ensure older workers who work past retirement age don’t lose workplace benefits such as health insurance.


A Conservative MP has said she will present a new law to Parliament to stop age discrimination at work in relation to workplace benefits.

Natalie Elphicke, the MP for Dover & Deal, will present the proposed legislation to Parliament this week.

She says that, while the law already protects from age discrimination in general, there is a loophole that allows lawful age discrimination in relation to work benefits – like health insurance, private health cover and life insurance. That means that, once a person reaches retirement age, those benefits can be stopped at the discretion of an employer.

Elphicke says: “[The loophole] means that an older worker is not on the same terms and conditions as a younger worker doing exactly the same job. It means that a worker is paid differently the day before their 66th birthday to the day after it. It means that while a younger worker has, for example, access to fast private healthcare to get back to work quickly, including for a workplace injury, that is not available to someone older.”

Elphicke says that as people live longer, they are more likely to work beyond retirement age. She has also called for a longer lead-in for changes to the state pension age so people have enough time to prepare.

The loophole is just one change for workers past retirement age and not all are negative in financial terms. For instance, anyone who is past the retirement age does not pay National Insurance unless they are self-employed and pay Class 4 contributions and they only pay income tax if their taxable income – including their private pension and State Pension – is more than their tax-free allowances.

Meanwhile,  an employment tribunal has found that a policy introduced by Oxford University in 2011 to force academics to retire at 65, later raised to 68, to improve diversity is discriminatory and cannot be legally justified. The benefit of the policy to promoting equality and diversity was also deemed “very limited” by the tribunal, with statistics only available in relation to gender. Modelling showed that the policy was thought to account for “a net increase of 0.5 women a year in the position of associate professor”.

The case was brought by Nicholas Field-Johnson, formerly the head of development for the department of continuing education; Bent Flyvbjerg, a former professor in the Saïd Business School; Philip Candelas, formerly the Rouse Ball head of mathematical physics; and Duncan Snidal, a former professor in international relations. They all left the university between 2019 and 2021 because of the Employer Justified Retirement Age policy and now stand to receive substantial damages.  The tribunal ruled that the option of becoming an emeritus professor or similar was “not comparable to their previous employment”. Oxford is considering an appeal.

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