PracticePeople In PracticeTwilight years no longer safe

Twilight years no longer safe

The government and decision-makers face an uphill battle to reform the UK’s creaking pension system.

According to the latest Accountancy Age/Robert Half Finance &
Accounting salary & benefits survey, the fundamental pillars of a workable
pension scheme are collapsing.

There is massive demand to retire before the age of 65 – over 85% of
respondents want to do so. Recent public debate has raised awareness of the
difficulties of securing early retirement; only about half of those people
surveyed believe they will be able to do so.

More worryingly for the government is that few people have been won over by
the case for reform. Half of survey respondents are not prepared to work beyond
65 to ensure a bigger pension. And almost three quarters do not believe that the
statutory retirement age should be extended to 67.

But surely accountants and finance professionals have a better understanding
than most, of the dilemmas facing many of their own firms, especially as two
thirds of respondents feel ‘personally involved’ in their company’s future.

Or perhaps there’s a deeper, more cultural reason behind accountants’
unwillingness to work for longer – discrimination. Two in three people believe
that the accountancy profession discriminates against those in the 50 plus age
group.

This highlights the necessity of not just changing laws but changing
cultures. The recent strengthening of the age discrimination legislation is a
case in point. Welcomed by everyone from the CBI to the TUC, it represented a
positive move forward to remind employers of their responsibilities.

But has it made a difference? How many of us can honestly say that we saw the
regulations as a cultural change and not a compliance exercise?

There is much more to be done in order to come to a consensus for a lasting
and fundamental reform to the UK’s pension system. But this isn’t the only
problem. The work environment needs to become accessible and acceptable to older
people before working longer becomes imaginable. And that’s a responsibility for
us all.

Phil Sheridan is managing director of Robert Half Finance &
Accounting

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