The government has released a report this week championing the necessity for greater support in getting over 50s into the workplace.
The report, compiled by Dr Ros Altmann CBE over the last eight months, outlines why action is needed, addressing issues of demographic change and increasing life expectancy, as well as recommending methods that should be taken by government, business and the media to increase employability in the older generation.
Dr Altmann said:
“The need to retain, retrain and recruit workers over 50 is becoming increasingly important as the population changes and people live longer.
“I have set out to challenge outdated stereotypes, unconscious bias and age discrimination, which all contribute to preventing older people from staying in or returning to work.
“There are many ways we can tackle this – which I have addressed in my report – including apprenticeships for those over 50, flexible working and better training for line-managers. Acting upon my recommendations will bring benefits to us all.”
Dr Altmann’s suggested method of implementing the necessary support focuses on the ‘three Rs’; retain, retrain and recruit. She claims that helping businesses to retain their existing staff through greater flexibility, recruit more older workers and retrain employees as their careers develop could boost the economy by up to £25 billion a year.
Dr Matt Flynn, director of the Centre for Research into the Older Workforce at Newcastle University, commented:
“The government, unions and business groups must work together to put in place clear career pathways for older workers – especially those in physically demanding work – helping them transition into sustainable jobs that meet their financial and health needs, whilst ensuring that their value as mentors and teachers to the younger generation is fully appreciated.
“This is already being done to great effect in large public sector organisations like the NHS, but we need more proactive measures from policymakers and Big Business to create the markets for the invaluable skills and expertise older people can offer.”
“Age discrimination in the workplace is still a huge problem and Altmann’s call for stiffer penalties for rule-breakers make sense. However, there’s still work to be done to promote the business case for employers to retain their older workers. This is particularly true for small business owners, who don’t think they have the time or resources to consider the cost of discriminatory practices. But when you look at the cost of lost talent and knowledge once these older workers are shoved out, it’s clear that more incentives and greater support needs to be put in place to make this business case crystal clear.”
Nancy Ames, HR director at Unum, commented:
“Altmann’s report highlights the importance of recruiting, developing and retaining older workers, both now and in the future. Yet many employers aren’t addressing their needs in the workplace, especially when it comes to employee benefits.
“Our research shows that the future workplace will increasingly be an ‘ageless workplace.’ Employers must understand what is needed to encourage older workers to remain or return to work, and make sure they feel energised to contribute their valuable expertise and experiences.
“To do this, employers must understand the needs of older staff and addressing the increased likelihood of ill health. Wellbeing programming is an important preventative measure. Income Protection provides an important financial back-up plan for workers who do go on long-term sick leave and comes with rehabilitation services to support them if they are able to return to work.”