This week I am presenting a law to Parliament to end age discrimination for older workers. It would end age discrimination on workplace benefits.
The reform would mean companies would no longer be allowed to take away vital workplace benefits such as healthcare insurance and death in service benefits from workers who carry on working past retirement age.
There are now more workers working over the age of 65 than ever before. There are a million people over 65 now in employment. The number continues to rise.
Sectors with the largest numbers of older workers are particularly important to our economy and our communities. A quarter of older workers are employed in health care, social work, and education.
The car industry and technical sectors also employ very high numbers of older workers.
It’s vital to treat older workers fairly. To support older workers who choose to stay in the workplace past the age of retirement.
That’s why age discrimination of workplace benefits, like health insurance and death in service benefits, needs to end. Older workers should have the same pay and conditions as any other worker.
There are those who claim this reform would be costly to business. They used to say the same about women who went on maternity leave.
Over time it became clear that retaining women in the workplace didn’t just benefit mothers – it benefited businesses who were able to retain the skills and knowledge of female workers.
In the same way, older workers have skills and knowledge gained over many years in the workplace. Treating older workers fairly will encourage them to stay and benefit the companies they work for.
A decade after the Equality Act was passed, many will be surprised this sort of age discrimination is still possible. They are right – it shouldn’t be and it’s time to ensure equal pay and conditions for all workers regardless of age.
There is huge support for this change in law from across the political spectrum. Backers include Caroline Nokes MP, the Chair of the Commons Equalities select committee and Dame Diana Johnson, Chair of the Commons Home Affairs select committee.
The SNP work and pensions spokesman David Linden, the DUP’s Jim Shannon, and many more MPs from all parties are also supporting this reform.
In last week’s Budget, the Chancellor underlined the importance of encouraging older workers to stay in the workplace. He wanted those who have retired to return to work.
Yet that will only happen if older workers are supported and feel they are being treated fairly. Making sure older workers receive equal pay and conditions is key to this.
That’s why I am calling on the Government to back this reform – because equal conditions, as well as equal pay, really matters.
Age discrimination, like any other form of discrimination, is humiliating, demeaning, and damaging. It’s time for equal pay and conditions for older workers.
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