New research warns that older workers are most likely to suffer the negative effects of the winding down of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. 

New research published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies and funded by the Centre for Ageing Better investigates the impact that the end of the furlough scheme will have on older workers.

According to the data, employees over the age of 65 were 40 per cent more likely to be furloughed in late April than those in their 40s – leaving this group vulnerable to the uncertainty accompanying the scheme.

Pre-pandemic trends showed that older workers were also less likely to return to work after spells of unemployment than younger workers.

Among people unemployed in their late 50s, less than one in three returned to work over the course of a year, compared with about half of those unemployed in their mid 30s.

As the end of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is projected to lead to a rise in the number of redundancies, the report warns that older workers may find it more difficult to secure new work.

Close to seven in 10 (69 per cent) of 55-year-old workers have been with their employer for more than five years, meaning these staff have less recent experience in searching for work.

In particular, the report highlights the importance of flexibility in the labour market among older workers, particularly regarding hours of work.

Almost a fifth of staff (16 per cent) of 50-to 69-year-olds in paid work wanted to work fewer hours. In addition, based on 2019 data, just under one in 10 (7 per cent) wanted to work more hours a week, showing the post-pandemic labour market will need to retain flexibility in order to cultivate a diverse workforce.

Emily Andrews, Deputy Director of Evidence at the Centre for Ageing Better, which funded the report, said:

The picture is currently very worrying for older workers furloughed or made redundant during the pandemic.

It’s vital then that in the wake of the crisis, the right support is in place to get over-50s back to work and prevent them falling into long-term unemployment – which would risk seeing many fall out of the workforce for good.

Government must make this group a priority, providing tailored support that takes into the needs of the over-50s and the barriers they may face to finding work. In addition, government must send a strong message to employers, job coaches and employment support services that over-50s are just as entitled to support as younger workers.


*This research was obtained from the Institute for Fiscal Studies’ report ‘Changing patterns of work at older ages’.