To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what exception there are to his policy of compelling employees of the Employment Service to retire at 60 years of age; and if he will make a statement. 
Responsibility for the subject of the question has been delegated to the Employment Service agency under its Chief Executive. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.
Letter from Leigh Lewis to Mr. David Kidney, dated 25 November 1997:
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question asking what exceptions there are to the policy of retiring employees of the Employment Service at 60 years of age. This is something which falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive.
Age retirement policy is common across the whole of the Department for Education and Employment, including the Employment Service. The background to the policy is that, following the merger of the former Departments for Employment and Education in 1995, there was a need to ensure a common retirement policy across the new Department.
There had, for a number of years, been a policy that staff working in the former Employment Department Group, including the Employment Service, were retained beyond their 60th birthday only where there was an operational need and the person concerned was fully fit and efficient. This same policy was adopted across the Department for Education and Employment and is a common policy across most Civil Service departments.
If, when an individual reaches age 60, there is no ongoing need for their service they will be retired. Where, however, there is an operational need for the individual to remain in employment they are invited to do so. The criteria for retaining individuals beyond their 60th birthday are that:
- a clear operational need exists;
- the individual is carrying out their duties effectively;
- they have no known health problems;
- their retention will not lead to serious promotion blockages;
- there are no suitable surplus staff in the individual's grade/pay band or location who could be redeployed into that post.
- In addition, where there are temporary employees filling posts which could instead be filled by retaining permanent staff beyond age 60, the contracts of temporary employees will be terminated in favour of retaining permanent members of staff.
These criteria are published in the "ES and You", the Employment Service's staff terms and conditions handbook. Since December 1996, the Employment Service has in fact retained more staff beyond age 60 than were retired at that age.
I hope this information clarifies the circumstances in which people are invited to remain in employment beyond their 60th birthday within the Employment Service.