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Older worker in office

Call for employers to do more for older workers

The Centre for Ageing Better's report calls for employers to be more age-friendly and inclusive of those over 50, including doing more to tackle age discrimination in the workplace.

Significant numbers of older employees feel they are being discriminated against at work because of their age, including believing they have been turned down for jobs (9%) and being offered fewer opportunities for training and progression (32%).

The findings from a YouGov poll of more than 1,100 employees over the age of 50, commissioned by the Centre for Ageing Better, are detailed in a new report launched today to help employers better support older workers. The report, 'Becoming an age-friendly employer', published in partnership with Business in the Community, sets out practical steps for employers to create a more supportive, age-positive culture and boost the candidate pool of older workers.

The survey shows that, since turning 50, 14% of over-50 employees believe they have been turned down for a job due to their age and nearly one in five (18%) have or have considered hiding their age in job applications. Nearly half (46%) think their age would disadvantage them in applying for a job and one in five think people see them as less capable due to their age.

While 40% of employees over the age of 50 think their workplace has a policy related to preventing age discrimination, nearly half of these people (47%) say it has made no difference.

Figures from Department for Work and Pensions show that less than half of people work in the year before they reach state pension age. Businesses that don’t retain and recruit older workers could face a labour and skills shortage as experienced staff leave and there are too few younger candidates to replace them, the report warns.

Becoming an age-friendly employer

Read the report

The Centre for Ageing Better is urging employers to adopt five steps to an age-friendly workplace to ensure they are ready for the ageing workforce:

  1. Be flexible about flexible working: Offer more flexibility, manage it well and help people know their options
  2. Hire age-positively: Actively target candidates of all ages, and minimise age bias in recruitment processes
  3. Ensure everyone has the health support they need: Enable early and open conversations, and early and sustained access to support for workers with health conditions
  4. Encourage career development at all ages: Provide opportunities for people to develop their careers and plan for the future at mid-life and beyond
  5. Create an age-positive culture: Equip HR professionals and managers to promote an age-positive culture, and support interaction and networking among staff of all ages

Enabling more people to be in fulfilling work for longer is a win-win for the economy, providing increased tax revenues and lowering the welfare bill. Halving the employment gap between workers aged 50 to state pension age and those in their late-40s could see nominal GDP increase by 1% (up to £20 billion per year at 2017 prices).Evidence shows that older workers do not crowd out younger workers. On the contrary, increasing overall employment levels leads to economic growth, increased demand and a further increase in available jobs for people of all ages.

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Patrick Thomson, Senior Programme Manager, Centre for Ageing Better, commented:

“The number of older workers continues to rise, with over 10 million over 50s in work last year. With job vacancies and numbers in work both at record levels, employers must act now to attract and retain skilled older workers or they will fall behind their competitors.

“Our report sets out practical steps that any employer can take to improve workplace flexibility, create an age-positive culture and boost the candidate pool of older workers.

“Employers risk losing their most experienced people and face labour and skills shortages. Every employer needs to become more age-friendly and take steps today to ensure they have a workforce for the future.”

Enabling more people to be in fulfilling work for longer is a win-win for everyone.

Andy Briggs, the Government’s Business Champion for Older Workers and Aviva Chief Executive Officer, UK Insurance and Global Life and Health, added:

“This research should serve a wake-up call – as life expectancy continues to rise, working patterns and career development will keep on changing as well. Already, nearly one in three workers is over 50, and employers must face up to the realities of an ageing population.

“Workplaces have to catch up with the seismic demographic change we are experiencing. Everybody must be supported to continually develop their skills and contribute their knowledge and experience over a much longer working life.”

Anne Wilmott, age director, Business in the Community said:

“The research shines a spotlight on the prevalence of age bias faced by people over 50 in work and when looking for work. Employers are missing a huge trick as older workers offer a rich source of skills and expertise. It's vital that businesses focus on creating an age inclusive culture that fully harnesses the talents of people of all ages.”

All results from YouGov survey