September 27, 2008

Time to Confine Age Discrimination to the History Books

By Jeff Salway

RIGHT now, the prospect of working beyond retirement age isn't an appealing one. However, the notion that I may not have the option to work beyond retirement age if I wanted to is even less appealing. But this week the campaign against the right of employers to make people retire at 65 suffered a significant blow when a senior legal adviser to the European Court of Justice rejected the challenge. His view isn't binding, but it's likely to influence the court when it rules on the case in December.

As the Heyday charity (part of Age Concern) has pointed out, the fact that people over the mandatory retirement age can still be refused employment or be forced to retire is effectively a licence for companies to sack workers when they reach retirement age.

Alyn Smith, an SNP member of the European Parliament, summed the current state of affairs up nicely, pointing out that it "means financial uncertainty for older people and removes able workers and vital experience from the workplace and economy when we can ill- afford to lose them".

The current retirement age dates from a time when it was above the average life expectancy age. Now, with longevity soaring and pensions dwindling, the concept of a compulsory retirement age seems faintly ridiculous.

Abandoning the concept would cause huge problems for businesses and would give rise to a situation where companies would instead have to find reasons to sack workers on the basis of their competence and capability. But the rules around age discrimination need clearing up because a system in which employees can be handed their P45 on the sole basis of their age is flawed and probably unsustainable.

AT A time when the need for decent independent advice has never been more acute, trust remains a considerable barrier to the take- up of professional financial advice.

That's why a significant increase in the number of financial planners holding chartered status is encouraging. The Chartered Insurance Institute has reported a rise of 47 per cent in the number of chartered financial planner title holders, to 1,455. The figure is still low, but with growth of this rate the standard of financial advice can only be dragged up to more professional levels than perhaps we have now.

There have always been outstanding financial advisers and planners that have made a big difference to their clients' lives. But they have all too often been outnumbered by advisers whose modus operandi remains the sale of substandard insurance company products that earn them decent levels of commission at the expense, in the long-term, of their clients.

A major problem when it comes to looking for a good adviser is sorting the wheat from the chaff. As it stands, judging the qualifications and experience of an IFA is too difficult, making selection a pot-luck process.

Chartered status doesn't solve this problem by any means, but widespread recognition that professionalism is the least that IFAs can offer is better late than never.

THE nosediving economy is blamed for many things, among them an increase in hair loss. I received an e-mail from a particularly shameless "hair recovery" brand giving details of its products and suggesting that financial stress is a factor in accelerating hair loss.

Worryingly, the message wasn't an escapee from the junk mail box or the result of a stressed PR confusing my role with that of the paper's Personal Follicles Editor.

In any case, I'm told that one direct and visible consequence of the continuing economic turmoil is a tendency, among men at least, for the time between haircuts to lengthen, causing a return to the full head of hair look. It also means the budget barbers are still doing OK, but that could just result in a distressing number of blokes with hair as badly cut as mine.

(c) 2008 Scotsman, The. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.