Over-50s urged to return to work to deal with staff shortages

over-50sThe British Chambers of Commerce has said employers and the Government need to work together to bring older people back into the workforce. According to ONS data,  around 500,000 older people have left the workforce in recent years, many of them prompted to do so by the pandemic. The number of over-50s who aren’t working or currently looking for work rose by 493,000 between October 2019 and December 2021. According to the Office for National Statistics, one in five did so due to stress or other mental health concerns.

Head of People Policy at BCC Jane Gratton said: “Businesses rely on the skills and experience that older workers bring to the workplace. But hundreds of thousands of people have left the workforce during the pandemic so we are seeing a worsening of skills shortages and mounting problems for employers.

“It’s vital that employers and the Government do all we can to help older workers stay in work by ensuring they have access to rapid and targeted training opportunities, flexible workplace policies and in-work support for any who develop ill health. The longer someone is out of work, the more their skills and confidence will suffer, so it’s vital we encourage people back into work quickly, by helping them return to their careers or to pivot their transferable skills to new sectors.

“The evidence shows that a fully inclusive, multigenerational workforce is good for business, being more likely to represent the needs of customers and communities, and leading to better decision making and performance.”

The UK now has more vacant jobs than people who are unemployed, for the first time since records began, and many employers are having big problems recruiting staff. In particular, lack of staff in food manufacturing and transport have contributed to delays in supply chains, leading to shortages in supermarkets.

Kirstie Donnelly MBE, CEO of City & Guilds has backed the statement. “Today’s plea for the over-50s to return to work highlights the need for employers and Government to come together and entice our older generation of workers back into the workforce. With workers over the age of 50 representing a third of our workforce, and having a wealth of knowledge, skills and experience, they have the potential to fill many of the skills shortages we face today.

“But to do this attitudes need to change. Our 2021 Skills Index research found that 54 percent of employers say they can’t get the skilled workers they need, but only 14 percent would actually consider recruiting or retraining older workers to solve skills shortages – highlighting large neglect towards older generations when it comes to seeking talent.

“It’s vital that we change this narrative and understand what would entice the over-50s back to work. Our Great Jobs research from January this year found that people are motivated by a better work life balance with flexibility of location and hours in-built alongside access to relevant skills development, training and qualifications. To benefit from the experience and skills of older workers we need to see employers and Government working together to offer more flexible working conditions alongside the right opportunities to update their skills, whether this be through an updated and more comprehensive apprenticeship system, or by helping people to identify their transferable skills to help them move into sectors with high demand.”