People should be allowed to work beyond the age of 65 and with more flexible hours, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has said.
Launching a set of proposals to open up more work opportunities for older Britons and address the challenges of an ageing workforce, the Commission called upon ministers to scrap the retirement age, saying it is out of date and discriminates against people who want to carry on working.
The economy would be the big winner from the Commission's policy, it has been claimed. Research from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research shows that extending working lives by 18 months would inject £15 billion into the British economy.
The call coincides with the release of a new survey carried out for the Commission into older workers' aspirations, barriers they face and potential solutions to these. The results show that the majority of this group believes major changes are needed to attitudes and policies if they are to reach their goals.
Twenty-four per cent of men and 64 per cent of women say they plan to keep working beyond the state pension age. Most older Britons do not want to slow down, many want job promotions and others wish to work well beyond the state pension age.
However, structural barriers and outdated stereotypes are forcing people out of work early. While Commission research shows employers are offering lower level, part-time work to over 50 year olds, twice as many older workers want a job promotion compared to those that want to down shift.
Older workers told the Commission that flexibility in hours and locations was crucial to keeping them in the workforce longer as they aimed to balance caring responsibilities and health needs with work. Eighty-five per cent of people not working and over the state pension age say greater availability of part-time or flexible jobs would help them gain a job.
Financial necessity is the most important reason to continue working. Many want to stay working for their current employers, pointing to an opportunity for employers to create a loyal workforce.
The policy, part of the Commission's Working Better initiative, aims to address the chronic under employment, low-paid employment and low income experienced by older Britons.
The Commission will be working closely with employers to develop guidance for organisations to implement non-discriminatory recruitment practices.
The Commission believes these proposed changes will boost the economy, increase flexibility for employers and employees, improve the health of older workers, increase productivity and reduce the financial costs to government in supporting older Britons.
Baroness Margaret Prosser, Deputy Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:
"This is about developing a way of working that is based on the demographics of today's populations and moving away from systems established when people died not long after reaching state pension age and women were supported by their husbands.
"Radical change is what older Britons are telling us needs to happen for them to stay in the workforce. Employers with a focus on recruiting and retaining older workers on flexible working arrangements are telling us it makes good business sense, allowing them to recruit and retain talent while meeting the flexible needs of their customers.
"Britain has experienced a skills exodus during the recession and as the economy recovers we face a very real threat of not having enough workers - a problem that is further exacerbated by the skills lost by many older workers being forced to retire at 65.
"Keeping older Britons healthy and in the workforce also benefits the economy more broadly by decreasing welfare costs and increasing the spending power of older Britons.
"Our research shows that to provide real opportunity to older workers, abolishing the default retirement age needs to be accompanied by a concerted drive by government, employers and agencies to meet the health, caring and work needs of the over-50s to enable them to remain in the workplace. Greater flexibility can help to deliver this."