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Analysis Calls on Government and Employers to Encourage Over-55s into Workplace

Analysis Calls on Government and Employers to Encourage Over-55s into Workplace

employment law policies for mature employees

A study by PricewaterhouseCoopers indicates that the UK could significantly boost its economy by increasing the employment rate of workers over the age of 55. PwC has called on both government and employers to do more to ensure age diversity in the workplace.

The analysis compared employment of older workers across 34 OECD countries and found that if the UK could match Sweden’s employment rate of over 55s – the highest performing EU country in PwC’s study – it could add around 5.8% (£105bn) to its GDP.

Although the UK has increased its employment rate among 55-64 year olds broadly in line with Sweden since 2003, the gap between the two economies has been maintained. The UK’s full-time equivalent employment rate for workers aged 55-64 is 51%, 15% less than Sweden’s, and the rate for over 65s is 7%, 4% less than Sweden’s.

The PwC report recommends three key labour market themes that governments should focus on. These include encouraging later retirement through pension reform or by creating other financial incentives; improving employability by promoting lifelong education and training; and reducing employment barriers for older workers.

John Hawksworth, PwC’s chief economist, said: “Businesses should look to adopt flexible working policies, such as ‘phased retirement’, and to redesign their offices and factories to better suit older workers.

He added that employers should take steps to achieve age diversity by opening up apprenticeship schemes to older workers so that they can capitalise on their experience. ‘Reverse mentoring’ schemes would also allow younger workers to pass on their digital skills to older colleagues, Hawksworth said.

Employers have ‘powerful role’ in supporting older workers

Last year’s ‘Missing Millions’ report from Business In The Community (BITC) suggested that a million people over 50 have been forced into involuntary retirement. Meanwhile, BITC’s follow-up report ‘Missing Millions: Pathways back into employment’ found that workers in the over-50 age group are being forced to start their own businesses or go into unpaid work due to ageism in traditional labour markets.

The BITC has said it believes employers have a powerful role to play to build a fairer society, and are fundamental to supporting people in later life who want to stay in – or gain – employment. It says that employers needs to take action to prevent early exit from the workforce, support later life working and make the most of intergenerational workplaces, and has called on employers to adapt their working processes to ensure that an ageing and intergenerational workforce has equal access to employment.

Government urged to help more over 50s into work

PwC’s request for workplaces to become more amenable to older workers follows on from the Resolution Foundation‘s call for a greater focus on helping over 50s get into work. The think tank has urged government to give more emphasis to helping the over 50s stay employed and said that particular attention should be paid to making sure that older employees are not forced to leave the workforce prematurely.

Laura Gardiner, senior policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Many employers already see the benefits of holding on to experienced members of staff but this attitude needs to spread throughout the labour market. Government policy interventions, such as an extension of rights to return to work, can help foster this change in attitudes towards older workers.”

The think tank says that there is potential to increase employment among those aged 50-64 by around 920,000 over the course of the current parliament, and to raise employment among those aged 65-69 by 240,000.

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