I am the one in ten: Firms called to employ more older workers

Employers are being asked to commit to increasing by 12 per cent employment of people aged 50-69 in a bid to address skills gaps, ensure greater equality and diversity, and to support personal choice.

Graphic illustrating an article about age bias in the workplace and what can be done to overcome it
The government’s business champion for older workers, Andy Briggs, chief executive of insurers, Aviva, is asking employers to commit to achieving the increase by 2022.As part of the plan, the business champion is tasking committed UK employers with removing age bias in retention, progression and recruitment. The moves should increase the number of older people in the UK workforce by one million over the next five years.

Understanding age bias

“One million more older people in work by 2022 is an ambitious yet necessary target. There are 15 million people of this age group in the labour market, yet only nine million are in work. We want to get this to 10 million by 2022,” said Andy Briggs.“This target is achievable if employers commit to taking an honest and sustained approach to understanding age bias in their organisations. Older people can be written off by their employers, but we are asking employers to consider carefully the overwhelming benefits of having a diverse and representative workforce, and then to act on it."We live in an ageing society so it is critical that people are able to work for as long as they need and want to and there are overwhelming benefits for both employers and employees. Many people aged over 50 want to continue to develop their careers, learn new skills, try new things and also share their broad knowledge and experience. This is good for everyone, and particularly for employers and their businesses who will benefit from drawing on the talent, creativity and experience of all of their employees, regardless of their age.”

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The employment rate for people aged 50-69 is currently 59 per cent. This needs to increase to 66 per cent by 2022 if the UK is to start addressing its skills gap, says Business in the Community (BITC), which hosts the government’s business champion for older workers.

How to meet skills demand through diversity

Mirroring figures released by HR consultants Mercer this week and the launch of the government’s strategy for supporting older people stay in work longer, BITC notes that by 2022, 14.5 million more jobs will be created. However, only seven million younger workers will enter the workforce, leaving 7.5 million roles unfilled.Rachael Saunders, Business in the Community’s age at work director, said: “The over 50s are a key part of the UK workforce and employers need to open their eyes to this talent pool. We are here to provide employers with the practical guidance and support they need to take action."We urge employers to get behind this target and work with us to prevent people from leaving work unnecessarily early and to benefit from an age diverse workforce.”Business in the Community has published a how to guide to support employers in achieving their 12 per cent target by understanding their workforce profile, listening to what their older employers need, and taking action to improve their retention and recruitment of older employees.The target is supported by the Centre for Ageing Better. Anna Dixon, chief executive, said: “The Centre for Ageing Better gives its full support to achieving the goal of a million more older people in work over the next five years."By 2022, more than one in three workers will be over 50. Employment rates for this age group have been growing, but they remain much lower than for younger people, with a rapid falling off after the age of 55. Increasing the numbers of people over 50 in fulfilling work is good for society, good for business and most importantly good for people themselves.

Five aspects to supporting age diversity at work

Dr Jill Miller, diversity and inclusion adviser at the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, also commented on the target’s launch: “The attention that the government is giving older workers is crucial, especially as the workforce ages and the state pension age increases.“However, different sectors face different challenges, which will need to be taken into account. Individuals will also have different motivations for choosing to remain or leave in the labour market. Employer action therefore needs to be underpinned by a deep level of understanding around strategic workforce planning.“They need to appreciate why people choose to stay or leave work after 50, in order to be able to engage with them and make the most of their knowledge and experience. This is about creating fulfilling working lives not just longer ones.“At 50, many workers are at the top of their game, sitting on a wealth of knowledge and vital experience – the challenge is how to effectively retain and engage staff.”The CIPD has also added its experience to advice on offer for employers. It outlines five essential components that should form an organisation’s strategy to address the aging workforce challenges:
  1. Ensuring they have inclusive recruitment practices
  2. Improving the capability of line managers to manage an age-diverse workforce
  3. Investing in training and development that is based on potential, not age
  4. Supporting employee health and well-being across demographics
  5. Embracing the talent attraction and retention benefits of flexible working.

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