The Co-operative Group, has been awarded Age Positive Employer Champion status by Age Positive, the Department for Work and Pensions initiative promoting age equality in the workplace.
The Group has embraced Government regulations introduced last year, when laws were introduced to protect workers from age discrimination.
It is illegal for employers to discriminate against employees because of their age. A national default retirement age of 65 means that employers can no longer force someone to retire before then.
The society has gone one step further and removed its contractual retirement age altogether. Employees can choose to continue working past 65 if they wish to do so. Currently the Group has 800 employees over 65 and 11,300 over 50.
Martin Beaumont, Group Chief Executive, said: “I am delighted the Co-operative Group has been recognised as an Age Positive employer champion. Through actions such as the removal of our retirement age and training for our managers, we have worked to ensure that our employees are judged on ability alone and no other factor.
“I’m particularly pleased that our efforts have been recognised and we will continue to develop our policies to remain an employer of choice for people of all ages.”
The Group has also re-designed its job application forms so the date of birth is not visible to recruitment managers, and ‘age-proofed’ the way it assesses people by focussing on the performance and contribution of staff, rather than how old they are. The organisation also uses a performance management process which takes into consideration not only how well someone has performed, but how they went about doing it.
James Purnell, Minister of State for Pensions Reform, has praised the efforts of the Group. He said: “By recognising the benefits of employing workers regardless of their age, employers like the Co-operative Group attract and retain enthusiastic, experienced and well-trained staff.
“We recognise there is an ageing population, with many older people who want the choice to continue working rather than retire. Older workers have a low rate of absenteeism and are highly motivated. This has a positive impact for businesses who can benefit from a more flexible workforce with a wider range of skills and abilities.”