BITC calls for increase in flexible job options to retain over 50s
Tapping into the talent pool of older workers is “essential” if employers want to succeed in future, but there are a unique set of challenges they must address, a report has warned.
Research from Business in the Community (BITC) found that despite the abolition of the default retirement age in 2011, people over 50 who become involuntarily unemployed were “less likely” to return to work, especially in comparison to their younger peers.
Results showed that less than a third of people aged between 50 and 64 who become unemployed successfully find another job. Those who are able to find re-employment are more likely than younger people to end up in alternative roles to regular employment, such as self-employment and even unpaid work. However, a much larger proportion of this age group who became jobless were unable to return to work.
And of the older people who do return to work, just over half of those aged 50-64 ended up working for an employer, compared to more than two-thirds of those in younger age groups.
BITC’s report ‘The Missing Million: Pathways back into employment’, found that the over 50s “demonstrated a substantial desire to work”. Around a quarter of older people who lost their job and became inactive would prefer to still be working.
However, age discrimination was cited as a major barrier. And people surveyed for the research aged 50 to 69 said they had experienced some kind of discrimination during the recruitment process and felt their age was the main reason.
The report said: “Continued adherence – sometimes conscious but especially unconscious – to age-related stereotyping can blind many employers to the changes that have occurred in the structure of society and the modern labour market.”
Yet previous research from BITC showed that harnessing the power of older workers could boost economic output by up to 5.6 per cent of GDP.
And the research showed that workforces with a higher proportion of older workers actually support work at a younger age, which contrasts with the perception that they crowd out younger jobseekers.
BITC said that HR can play a vital role in helping people work into later life by supporting flexible work arrangements. This helps to accommodate issues around ill health and the potential needs to care for a relative.
Ros Altmann, the government’s Older Workers' Business Champion, said: “Businesses across the country are waking up to the potential of older workers – as the over 50s become the fast-growing section of society. But there is more to do to end the outdated and inaccurate perceptions that can hold them back.
“Millions of over 50s are now looking to retire later – as working later in life becomes the new norm – so it is essential to ensure their skills are kept up to date, and there is support for them to even take on a new career to make the most of their energy and experience.”
Commenting on the report’s findings, Rachael Saunders, BITC’s director of age and intergenerational workplaces, said: “Not only are hard-working and highly skilled over 50s workers unfairly punished but we as a country also lose out.
“Urgent action is needed if we are going to reverse this situation and we will continue to work with government, business and local communities to keep people over 50 in work, and improve the prospects of marginalised and under-used over 50s workers.”