Spotlight on older workers

It was a pleasure to take part in a lively debate at the APPG for Skills and Employment when I gave evidence on older workers and the challenges of retention, re-training and re-skilling. With the prediction that there will be 12.5 million job vacancies by 2022 but only some 7 million to fill them, longer working lives will be an increasing feature of the coming years.

From my perspective, the biggest challenge lies in enabling those who want to keep working to have the ability to do so. Figures show that one million 50-64 year olds are out of work involuntarily through redundancy, ill health or early retirement, yet the number of 55-64 year olds not wishing to work fell from 45% to 32% over the decade to 2013 and the same demand for continuing to work was evident for those in the older age range from 65-74 years.

With DWP figures showing that of the 2.9m out of work between 50 and state pension age, only 0.7 m see themselves as retired but 1.7m think it is unlikely that they will ever work again. Early withdrawal from the labour force has serious financial implications for those with inadequate retirement incomes and costs to the state have been estimated at £7bn annually in out of work benefits. For those with long-term health conditions return to work is even more challenging – something we featured in detail in our recent report – Is Welfare to Work, Working Well?

As an older worker myself – I am convinced that we are just not getting this right – with evidence stacking up of the positive personal impact of work on wellbeing and the pressures in the social system, it really is time that we get better as individuals and as employers in working through how best to enable those that want to continue or return to work to do so. With modern technology and flexible working arrangements, it is surely not an impossible task. We just need to realise that “one-size does not fit all” and personal choice and personal attitudes together with person-centred approaches from employers can reap benefits all round.

At the Work Foundation we are focusing on this challenge for those that may be excluded because of health impairment in particular through our long-standing Fit for Work programme and our latest extension to that – the Global Work Ability Alliance. For more details of this and how as employers to become actively engaged please contact us.