Older workers are the future of the workforce, say UK’s leading businesses

Retaining and recruiting older workers is critical to closing this labour gap, say leading UK businesses. 

The call is led by Business in the Community’s Age at Work Leadership Team, includes companies such as Aviva, Barclays, Boots, the Co-operative Group, EY, Home Instead Senior Care, the Royal Air Force and the Department for Work and Pensions.

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A report titled Age in the Workplace, conducted by Business in the Community’s, which works to create a fairer society and a more sustainable future, highlights the benefits older employees can bring to organisations.

Rachael Saunders, Age at Work Director, Business in the Community, said: “The shift to an ageing workforce needs to be harnessed by business. Retaining, retraining and recruiting older workers is critical to this.  

“We no longer have a default retirement age but established social norms entrenched over a long period of time must be addressed to ensure that recruitment and progression are fair for men and women of all ages. Real change is needed to address age bias and discrimination which are barriers to fulfilling work in later life.”

The number of people aged 65 and over has grown by almost half over the last 40 years, and now makes up nearly one fifth of the population. By 2050 it is expected to nearly double, to around 19 million. Between 2012 and 2022, an estimated 12.5 million jobs will be opened up by people leaving the workforce, and an additional 2 million jobs will be created – yet only 7 million younger people will enter the workforce to fill them, according to the report. 

Business in the Community and the Centre for Ageing Better hope the findings will encourage more employers to see the benefits of an age-friendly workplace and implement effective policies and practices.

Why should business take action on age at work? 

  • People and skills: Older workers are vital for the future of the economy. Between 2012 and 2022, we will face an 7.5 million skills gap – retention of older workers will be vital. Support for older workers results in increased loyalty and retention, improving productivity and reducing recruitment costs. The average cost of recruiting and training a new member of staff is estimated by CIPD at £6,000.
  •  Bridging the empathy and insight gap: A workforce that reflects your customer demographics will have invaluable insight into the products and services that will be most successful.
  • Cross-generational innovation: Age-diverse workplaces benefit from a range of experiences, ideas and ways of thinking. There are huge opportunities for businesses to harness the knowledge and creativity of multiple generations. Our call to action for business is based on our research, on the collective insights of the senior business leaders and practitioners who have worked with us, and on our own knowledge and expertise. 

Evidence shows if half of the one million older people who are not in work became employed then UK’s GDP would increase by up to £88 billion a year.

A recent survey released by CIPD the professional body for HR and people development, revealed around 30 per cent of the UK workforce is currently over 50, compared to 20 per cent in the 1990s.

Rachel Suff, CIPD Employment Relations Adviser, said: “We need to legitimise and support working carers and their place in the labour market. These individuals account for an increasing share of the UK’s workforce, but often feel uncomfortable talking about their situation which results in it being a hidden issue.

“Employers have a responsibility to raise awareness and train line managers to support employees with caring responsibilities and help them to stay in work. They also need to foster an open and inclusive culture, where employees feel supported, rather than in fear of how external factors might affect their job.

“Ideally, employers should develop an approach that values people for who they are, whatever their age or personal circumstances, and aims to support them in achieving harmony between their needs and desires inside and outside the workplace.

“Flexible working is key to extending working life for people in a wide range of circumstances, and should be a critical component of any strategy to support working carers. This doesn’t just mean offering non-traditional hours, it’s also about creating more flexibility in roles and areas of responsibility which enable people to cope with their personal and professional commitments.”


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