Charlie Mullins: It makes no sense to ditch your staff at 65!


Pimlico Plumbers boss Charlie Mullins says that senior staff have more experience than you’ll get in a training manual

To see the fact that centenarian Jim Clements is still working in his office job being celebrated in the news last week is very encouraging in the battle to change the perception of older workers.

It was very inspiring to see Jim in action as a prime example of someone that has defied retirement and proven that even at the grand old age of 100, he is still a valuable asset to his employer. He highlights the benefits that a more mature workforce bring to a business.

The government’s common sense decision to scrap the compulsory retirement age in 2011 and let people freely work beyond 65 was one of the most rational legislations ever passed.

I have always been an advocate of older workers and since I started Pimlico Plumbers in 1979 have always appreciated what they bring to the company as employees. There is no substitute for experience and that’s why 20% of my workforce is over 55, with some approaching 80, and they are well-respected by colleagues and customers.

Mario Rebellato, my 71 year old PA, says his key to success with the company is that he brings with him 50 years of work experience and this can help him stand back and assess situations and be flexible in his approach to work.

Take Eric Headley, who helps run our transport fleet at Pimlico Plumbers at the age of 77. He doesn’t work just for financial reasons, he chooses to do so as ‘retirement is just not for him’.

From the trend of official figures, the number of people still in employment over the age of 65 is expecting to pass the one million mark for the first time in 2013. People are not ‘old’ anymore at 65 and therefore many want to work past this age and many have to as they simply cannot afford to retire.

However there is still a lot of work to do on changing the perception of older workers and employer’s attitude towards them. As we all know, in the future people will have to keep on working way past the traditional retirement age, the state pension age is due to increase to 67 by 2028 and future rises would be linked to life expectancy.

There is still prejudice towards those workers over 65 and according to research collated by Age UK, 65% of older people believe age discrimination still exists in the workplace. Many employers might think that older staff are ready to slow down in the workplace or more likely to have time off sick, but I have found this not to be the case and in fact quite the opposite. Older workers are still ambitious and take great pride in their work.

In a recent survey by Age Concern, 76% of older people believed the country failed to make good use of the skills and talents of older people. In my opinion, older workers should be embraced and their skills put to use.  

To say that older workers are less productive is not true and to accuse them of taking up jobs and resources that should be passed onto younger people is ridiculous. Employment has to be decided on skills and competency, however old the individual.

Younger workers need more experienced employees to help them learn. In fact, what they can teach new employees about attitude and commitment is worth more than anything you’ll find in a training manual.

To simply throw away all the experience and skills that an older worker brings to the workplace just because they have reached a certain age has always been a strange notion to me which makes no business sense whatsoever.