More than half of businesses are unprepared for having employees working beyond the traditional retirement age of 65, a survey has found.

The default retirement age will be abolished this autumn, with businesses no longer able to force staff to retire on their 65th birthday due to age alone.

But just months before the new law comes into force, a survey by business support specialist, ELAS, found most small and mid-sized businesses were unaware of the practical impact the new law will have on many of their working practices.

Of those businesses which currently offer death in service benefits or private health cover, some 57 per cent did not realise that the cost of providing these would probably soar for those employees aged over 65.

And 54 per cent said they would no longer honour those staff benefits if costs rose, leaving staff reaching 65 having to accept potentially worse pay and conditions in order to stay in work.

ELAS’s head of employment law, Peter Mooney, said: “Most businesses we speak to are now aware that they cannot force staff to retire due to age alone, but it seems many businesses haven’t actually thought through how the new law will affect them in practice.

“Expensive death in service and healthcare benefits are just two examples of how employing older workers will affect businesses - risk assessments, access requirements and adjustments for disability may also need revision as workforces grow older.”

By Max Clarke