Can an employer suggest to an employee that they consider reducing their hours in preparation for retirement?

Depending on the circumstances, there could be a risk of age discrimination if an employer suggests that an employee reduce their hours in preparation for retirement.

Much depends on whether or not the employee has informed the employer of their intention to retire. In the absence of such an indication, the employer should not assume that the employee will retire simply because they are approaching a certain age. If the employee does inform the employer of their intention to retire, the employer may wish to discuss with the employee the possibility of reducing their hours in preparation for retirement, for example if this might facilitate a handover of the employee's work, or help the employee to adjust to not working. The employer should not impose a reduction in hours on the employee without their agreement as this is likely to constitute unlawful age discrimination, unless it can objectively justify it.

If the employer's reason for wishing to reduce the employee's hours of work is unrelated to retirement, for example there has been a downturn in work or the employer has concerns about the employee's performance, it should address this using the appropriate procedure, ie the redundancy or capability procedure.