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The UK—Public Policy

by Christina Purcell and Matt Flynn

January 2010—The UK prides itself at being the “most lightly regulated labor market of any leading country.” Based on the 1998 White Paper, “Fairness at Work,” UK policy promotes partnership between employers and employees and encourages individual rather than collective rights.

Despite this “light touch to regulation,” however, the UK has continued to support a default retirement age of 65 years. The government has pledged to review “ the default retirement age, with the goal of abolishing it,” in 2010.

  • UK Civil Service, who a decade ago mandated 60 years as the retirement age, has abolished compulsory retirement.
  • Roughly 30% of men and 10% of women age 65-69 remain economically active.
  • Roughly two-thirds of men and four-fifths of women above age 65 works part-time.

Additional existing regulations include:

  • The national minimum wage, £5.93 per hour, has positively reduced the gender pay gap among the lowest earners.
  • Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations 1999 gave parents of children up to five years of age, who had completed one year of service to their employer, the right to take 13 weeks unpaid leave per child for parental duties; for parents of disabled children the leave period is 18 weeks, up to the child’s 18th birthday.
  • There are no general statutory provisions for flexible work in the UK outside of parental leave, although flexible work arrangements may be requested.

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