80 per cent of UK businesses aren’t prepared for the ageing workforce

Over 50s now form a third of the UK workforce, but three in four older workers feel that employers aren’t doing enough to recruit them.

Over 50s now form a third of the UK workforce, but three in four older workers feel that employers aren’t doing enough to recruit them.

New research from Capita Resourcing examined the attitudes of 1,002 workers over the age of 55, as well as 100 senior HR professionals. It reveals that over a third of older workers have experienced bias towards the younger generation in the workplace, and 73 per cent say that employers aren’t doing enough to tap into their knowledge and skills.

While the majority of older workers say that they do generally feel respected at work, as many as one third feel side-lined, and 17 per cent say they have been passed over for promotion because of their age. And despite almost all UK businesses believing older workers could be the key to bridging the skills gap, only one in five are currently looking to the over 50s to grow their business.

“The UK’s older working population is set to increase rapidly in the coming years, whilst at the same time the number of skilled school-leavers will continue to struggle to fill employment gaps. Yet with eyes focused on technology and innovation, few businesses have older workers on their agenda, leading to a huge missed opportunity,” Chris Merrick, director at Capita Resourcing, says. “It’s time for a recalibration of what it means to be an older worker – these employees want to be challenged, not side-lined.”

On retirement, 61 per cent of older workers understand – or even support – the government’s decision to raise the pension age to 66 by 2020, but 22 per cent are also concerned about the impact this might have. Over two thirds believe there is a significant mismatch between the government’s view that people need to work longer and bias amongst employers towards younger people, and 79 per cent of businesses say that the government has not given enough thought to the business impact of raising the retirement age.

This renewed interest in the professional future of elderly workers comes as the life expectancy of people aged 65 and over is predicted to almost double in the next 40 years. Andy Briggs, chief executive of Aviva UK and Ireland, has been recently appointed as the new “Business Champion for Older Workers”. He argues that many of the skilled, talented professionals leaving the workforce aged 50 or 60 do so due to carer duties for parents or loved ones. Allowing flexible or part-time working positions could enable these willing workers to continue their practice, ensuring that businesses do not lose knowledgeable, experienced members of staff unnecessarily and, as Andy Briggs predicts, potentially providing the UK economy with a £2.5 billion boost.

The subject of the ageing workforce constantly presents itself with numerous recruitment challenges. While it is commonly suggested that employers must act fast to employ younger workers to keep teams complete, there is little done to ensure that elderly staff can continue working in their positions for longer. Implementing a system that can facilitate flexible working and part-time hours could be the step needed to keep the ageing workforce employed for longer, presenting benefits for both the staff in question and the company that employs them.

“The good news is that there are many steps that business can take now to benefit from an ageing workforce, such as conducting an age audit to identify patterns of discrimination, and introducing reverse mentoring to up-skill senior employees in areas such as digital,” Merrick adds. “Businesses can also tailor their benefits in line with the wants and needs of the older generation, such as more flexibility.” 

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.

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