Government launches plan to retain older people in workforce

The government has published guidelines for employers and individuals aimed at boosting the number of people working later in life.

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Following the consultation last year, secretary of state for work and pensions Damian Green has unveiled the government's plans aimed at enhancing opportunities for older workers in the UK labour market.Acknowledging the health, wellbeing and financial benefits of staying in the workforce longer, the Fulller Working Lives strategy advises employers and individuals to consider the six Rs to reaping the benefits of employment in later life.

The three Rs revisited

The partnership approach outlined by the government makes the case for employers to focus on recruiting, retraining and retaining older workers.Alongside the removal of the default retirement age and the introduction of the right for everyone to request flexible working, the government is setting out a four-point plan to help companies deliver the strategy.This includes publishing a wide range of evidence to outline the benefits of working longer and "harnessing the power of a truly multigenerational workforce", alongside more tailored support through JobCentre Plus, and for people with long-term health conditions and disabilities.For the over-50s, the government is advising people looking to stay in work longer to rethink their finances in the context of the financial benefits of working up to and beyond state retirement age. It also suggests refreshing skills and reinventing their career and working lives.

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More people planning to work longer

The report highlights the average age of leaving the labour market has increased over the past two decades. However, it is still lower than it was in 1950 and is not keeping pace with increases in life expectancy. One in four men and one in three women reaching state pension age have not worked for five years or more.Moreover, Department for Work and Pensions research cited in the strategy document suggests only 15 per cent of respondents aged under 60 would like to stop work and retire between the ages of 60 and 65. Three-quarters would like to still be in work (either full time or part time).The government also notes that by delaying retirement until 65 instead of 55, someone with average earnings could have an extra £280,000 income and might increase their pension pot by 55 per cent.

Employer support key to extending careers

Commenting on the strategy, Damian Green, said: "Most people are healthier for longer and so are able to extend their careers and take up new opportunities."Staying in work for a few more years can make a significant difference not only to someone’s income but also their physical and mental health."I urge all businesses to reassess the value of older workers. Nobody should write off hiring someone due to their age and it’s unacceptable that some older people are overlooked for roles they would suit completely."

Shift in behaviour around working longer

Anna Dixon, chief executive of the Centre for Ageing Better, added that to make the strategy work needs a major change in attitudes from employers, government and individuals. "We know that being in fulfilling work for longer is key to people being able to prepare for a good later life. Good work is important financially but is also a major source of social connections, good health, and provides a sense of purpose."We want more people aged 50 years and over to be in fulfilling work that supports a good later life, so we welcome the government’s Fuller Working Lives strategy launched today. But this is just the start – to achieve a significant increase will need concerted effort from employers as well as government, and a change in individual attitudes. This needs to include support for carers, access to lifelong learning, support for people with health conditions and disabilities at work – and an end to ageism in the workplace."

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