Enterprise Rent-A-Car extended its compulsory retirement age of 65 years to all employees, following the introduction of the Employment Equality (Age) regulations 2006 last October.
This had previously only applied to its senior management team, while the rest of its workforce had no set retirement age.
Jim Burrell, senior vice president for European operations at the car rental company, said: “We looked at all of the options available to us and there were two or three options. One that caused the least harm to our employee base and our business was to implement a compulsory retirement age for all employees.”
The change in policy meant that 140 employees who were already over the age of 65 years had to retire by 31 March 2007. Under the terms of the legislation, transitional arrangements set out a process for employers retiring people after 1 October 2006 but before 1 April 2007 to follow. “The impact is that we have a group of people who have to retire immediately – some of them aren’t very happy about it and understandably so. The reality is that these people were pretty happy working for us and we liked working with them. We were in a position where we had to find a way to comply with the law and this was the path that we chose,” said Burrell.
He added that, while the company understood the principles behind the legislation, the changes had been very disruptive. There has since been some speculation as to whether the company’s actions contradict age discrimination legislation by forcing some employees to retire against their wishes, but Burrell believed the company is well covered. “We certainly spent a lot of time and money talking to lawyers and benefits consultants working out how to do this, so I think we are on solid ground,” he explained.