From education to employment

Employment boost for older workers

A new government strategy encourages the over 50s to reap the benefits of work, including a second career.

A new strategy is calling on employers to boost the number of older workers and ensure they are not writing people off once they reach a certain age, helping to build a country that works for everyone.

It’s estimated that by mid-2030s people aged 50 and over will comprise more than half of the UK adult population.

The government is encouraging people to take full advantage of the opportunities that work can bring, including seeking out a new career if they are feeling unfulfilled at work. A group of over 40 employers have spearheaded the new business approach to older workers.

As part of the new Fuller Working Lives strategy, ministers and business leaders have set out the social and health benefits of working longer. Highlighting the need for businesses to ‘retain, retrain and recruit’ older workers, the strategy outlines how a coalition of jobcentres and businesses can combine to support older workers to continue in their careers or take a new direction.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Damian Green said:

Most people are healthier for longer and so are able to extend their careers and take up new opportunities.

Staying in work for a few more years can make a significant difference not only to someone’s income but also their physical and mental health.

I urge all businesses to reassess the value of older workers. Nobody should write off hiring someone due to their age and it’s unacceptable that some older people are overlooked for roles they would suit completely.

The strategy also highlights that:

  • the average age of leaving the labour market has increased over the past 2 decades, but it is still lower than it was in 1950 and is not keeping pace with increases in life expectancy
  • 1 in 4 men and 1 in 3 women reaching state pension age have not worked for 5 years or more
  • by delaying retirement until 65 instead of 55 someone with average earnings could have £280,000 extra income and might increase their pension pot by 55%

Anna Dixon, Chief Executive of the Centre for Ageing Better, said:

We know that being in fulfilling work for longer is key to people being able to prepare for a good later life. Good work is important financially but is also a major source of social connections, good health, and provides a sense of purpose.

We want more people aged 50 years and over to be in fulfilling work that supports a good later life, so we welcome the government’s Fuller Working Lives strategy launched today.

But this is just the start – to achieve a significant increase will need concerted effort from employers as well as government, and a change in individual attitudes. This needs to include support for carers, access to lifelong learning, support for people with health conditions and disabilities at work – and an end to ageism in the workplace.

Rachael Saunders, Age at Work Director at Business in the Community, said:

Government leadership on this issue is vital, as we mobilise business to take action on age at work. This strategy, and the Government Business Champion for Older Workers launch that follows it on 6 February, represent a scaling up of call to action on later life working.

Government is taking action where it is needed, in back to work support and mobilising Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs). It is now for business to step up, and retain, retrain and recruit the older workers who are vital to the success of UK business, as they are the employees of today, and the talent pool of tomorrow.

Legislation has already been introduced to support Fuller Working Lives, including the removal of the Default Retirement Age and the introduction of the right for everyone to request flexible working.

To further support the employment of older workers, government is taking 4 main actions:

  • publishing a wide range of evidence to outline the benefits of working longer and harnessing the power of a truly multigenerational workforce
  • providing additional help for groups who may need more support getting into and staying in work, including people with long-term health conditions and disabilities
  • putting control of adult skills budgets in the hands of learners and employers, and achieving 3 million apprenticeship starts in England by 2020 – a commitment that apprenticeships are as accessible as possible to people of all ages and backgrounds
  • continuing to develop the support available through jobcentres for older workers, demonstrated by Older Claimant Champions being introduced in all Jobcentre Plus districts

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