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UK government: Over 50s expect to work longer, creating challenges for employers

Category: Industry News, Employee, Challenges, UK Government

Over 50s expect to work longer, creating challenges

UK workers aged over 50 no longer think that working full-time and then stopping work altogether is the best way to retire, while almost half would still like to be working at least part time between the ages of 65 and 70, according to new research.

Steve Webb, the government's pensions minister, said that the survey showed the need for employers to be more flexible as "traditional" views of retirement were on the way out. Only 17% of the 2,000 retired and yet-to-retire over 50s surveyed by YouGov said that working full time and then stopping work altogether would be the best way to retire.

"How we all look at retirement is changing and the way in which government and business help older workers needs to keep up with the times," he said.

"The results show there is no single view of retirement any more, but the message from older workers is clear: employers need to keep up with changes to society and we have to ensure over 50s have the skills in place to continue developing their careers throughout their working lives," he said.

Over one million current UK workers are over the age of 65, while almost 250,000 more people between the ages of 50 and 64 re-entered the workforce last year, according to government figures. However, the survey also showed that a significant minority of older workers felt that they were viewed "less favourably than younger workers" by their employers: 15% of those not currently retired reported that they had experienced some sort of age-based discrimination in the workplace, while 41% of those that had been unemployed at some point since turning 50 said that their age had affected their confidence when they were applying for jobs.

The government appointed Dr Ros Altmann, who commissioned the latest research, as its 'business champion for older workers' last year. From April, it intends to introduce older workers' "champions" into UK job centres who will offer career reviews, digital support and link-ups with local small and medium-sized businesses that are recruiting to those aged over 50 that are struggling to find employment. It also intends to issue new guidance to help employers support older staff in the workplace.

According to the survey results, 39% of those aged over 50 that had not yet retired said that working part-time or flexible hours before stopping work altogether would be the best way to retire, while over one in four respondents said that they would be interested in taking a few months off and then returning to work rather than retiring outright. Of those respondents that had already retired, 39% said that their advice to others would be to consider flexible or part-time work before stopping altogether.

From April, those that have contributed to a defined contribution (DC) pension during their working life will be given more freedom to access their pension savings from the age of 55, without necessarily having to buy an annuity or facing heavy tax penalties. From 2018, the state pension age (SPA) for women will rise to 65 to meet that of men, before it increases to 66 for both sexes in October 2020 and to 67 by 2028.

"The survey confirms that attitudes to retirement are already changing," said pensions expert Simon Tyler of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com.

"Individuals have started to accept that they may need to carry on working later than previous generations. They are expecting to live longer, and realise that their pension savings and the state pension may not be sufficient. Employers will need to adapt to the growing number of part-time older workers, who may have different training needs and pensions expectations," he said.

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