Unable Mabel

Mabel is a long serving loyal employee, having been with your organisation through thick and thin.  Everyone loves her, and she is seen as the “mum” of the workplace.  Although Mabel’s actual contribution may not be as high as others, you have been happy with this, given everything else she brings to the organisation.

However, your organisation is not making the money that it used to, and tough decisions need to be made.  You simply can’t afford to keep everyone, and are reviewing where you can make efficiencies in order to keep the business going.

As Mabel is approaching 65 you hope she will soon be considering retirement, although you haven’t heard her mention this.  You know that people no longer automatically retire at 65, but hope you can have a chat with Mabel and ask her to consider retiring sooner rather than later, as given the financial situation, you can’t afford to keep everyone.   You think this will be the fairest solution, as other employees are more financially dependent on keeping their job, to pay mortgages for example, and you know Mabel is not in this position.

However, even a conversation such as this, for reasons you consider valid for the future of the business, are no longer reasonable since the abolition of the default retirement age.  This could still constitute an act of direct age discrimination, and thus should be avoided.

The way to tackle the problem the organisation finds itself in, is to consider any efficiencies that can be achieved whilst maintaining everyone in employment, and then to consider redundancies if you are unable to achieve the required cost savings otherwise.  Selection for redundancy should always be on objective grounds, and should never take into account “protected characteristics” such as age.  While we’re on the subject, “last in, first out” should never be used as a grounds for selection for redundancy either, as it is likely to unduly impact on younger employees, who haven’t had the opportunity to build up as much service as their older colleagues.

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