As people in the UK live longer, the government has launched an action plan to help employers make the most of older workers’ potential.
A business case and details of the plans are outlined in the government’s ‘Fuller Working Lives – a framework for action’, launched by pensions minister Steve Webb.
The framework includes the appointment of a new Older Workers’ Employment Champion, a new Health and Work Service which will support workers with long-term health problems to stay in or return to work, and the extension of the right to request flexible working to all employees, which comes into force this month.
These measures are intended to challenge misconceptions about older workers and encourage more employers to consider the benefits these employees can bring.
The government warned employers they must not ignore this fundamental shift in the age distribution of the UK’s workforce with Office for National Statistics predictions that there will be 700,000 fewer people aged 16 to 49 in the next 10 years but 3.7 million more people aged between 50 and state pension age.
Current UK employment rates for 55 to 64 year olds are about 60 per cent and growing. But statistics show that this recent improvement is relatively modest compared to other nations, where several countries achieve rates of 70 per cent and above, meaning the UK can make significant improvements.
Webb said: “Older workers have a huge amount to bring to any workforce and are a vast untapped talent. We are living longer and can expect many more years of healthy life. It’s great news – but it’s something that as a society and as an economy we need to respond to.”
He said that the business case was “compelling” while the research in the framework published today sets out clear advantages for individuals, employers and the state.
Dianah Worman CIPD diversity adviser, said that the institute’s latest work in this area of workforce change shows that there is both good news and challenges for employers. She said that while recognition of the benefits of an age diverse workforce has grown, more work is needed to build on the success achieved so far.
“Simply retaining older workers will not be enough to capture the talent and skills employers will need for sustained economic success,” Worman said. “Employers will also have to develop more age-inclusive recruitment practices and do more to extend working life by boosting flexible working practices, for which there is a big appetite amongst older workers. They will also have to focus on extending inclusive provisions to safeguard the health and well being of all employees into old age to ensure a win/win outcome for all involved in this important agenda.”