These new statistics have emphasised the impact of the pandemic on workers aged over 50, with 30 per cent believing there is a significant chance they could lose their job once furlough ends. 

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed staff aged over 50 have been impacted by COVID-19 to a greater extent than those in the middle aged groups.

Workers within this age bracket were shown to report working fewer hours compared to their younger counterparts. In specific, those aged over 65 were worst hit, being most likely to have worked fewer hours between December 2020-February 2021.

Staff aged over 50 were also most likely to report working fewer hours than usual in the past week because of the coronavirus.

In light of this, pay was largely impacted – with half of workers aged over 65 (49.3 per cent) receiving partial pay over the last week. Over one in 10 (12.9 per cent) received no pay at all.

During this same time period, the employment rate for those aged 50 to 64 fell from 72.6 to 71.1 per cent. For those aged 65 years and over, it fell from 11.5 to 10.4 per cent.

However, the redundancy rate for people aged 50 years and over had the highest overall increase out of all age groups over the year. This rose from 4.3 in December 2020 to 9.7 per thousand, up 5.4 per thousand on the year which was the highest redundancy rate across age groups in the latest quarter.

Older workers also made up over a quarter of furloughed employments, representing 1.3 million workers in the UK.

Of this number, three in 10 (30 per cent) felt there is a significant risk that they will lose their job once the scheme ends.

This is a particular concern as it has been well-documented that older workers are more likely to be unemployed long-term compared to younger staff. In three months until February 2021, three in 10 of unemployed people aged over 50 were long-term unemployed compared to under a fifth (18.9 per cent) of those aged under 50.

Industries dominated by workers aged over 50 such as manufacturing and distribution, hotels and restaurants saw high levels of redundancies during the pandemic also.

Karen Watkins, Founder of Rowan Consulting, stressed the need for HR teams to do more in order to promote diversity and inclusivity for older workers:

When you consider the huge amount of funding and focus that has gone into the younger generation in terms of the Kickstart and various apprenticeship schemes, there does appear to be a huge gap in initiatives that cater for this potentially forgotten generation.

There is clearly a role for HR to play in this and any decent HR team will be the driver and custodian of a solid, progressive D&I policy that works with managers to ensure that this generation of older workers is not left behind culturally or technically.

Sarah Loates, Director at Loates HR Consultancy, outlined what the Government could do to aid workers over the age of 50:

Employers should consider simple strategies ranging from targeted attraction campaigns and flexible roles to intergenerational learning, such as reverse mentoring, whereby more tech-savvy employees train older workers.

Government policy should also provide a ‘triple lock’ guarantee for older workers to prevent the birth of a ‘lost generation’.
The triple lock should provide older workers access to bespoke help to secure work and reskill, and deliver focused funding for employers who recruit older workers, similar to the Kickstart Scheme for younger workers.

*The full ONS statistics can be found here.