Older workers remain untapped resource for employers


Employers who ignore Britain’s growing population of older workers could suffer skills shortages and lose an important competitive edge, warns a new government guide. “Employing older workers”, published by the Department for Work and Pensions, warns that Britain is running out of workers. There are 13.5 million job vacancies which need to be filled over the next ten years, but only seven million young people are projected to leave school and college over that time. Yet despite a predicted surge in numbers of employees over 50, employers remain reluctant to recruit older people.

Pensions Minister Steve Webb said: “Older people are the main untapped source of labour in this country. Britain is in a global economic race and we’re moving towards a landscape where there will be a set of jobs that employers cannot fill with anyone but experienced older workers. A firm that doesn’t make use of the talent pool on offer amongst the over fifties will be left behind.”

With people living and keeping fit for longer, the proportion of over-50s in the workforce is set to rise to a third of the workforce by 2020 (from 27 per cent at the moment). 50 per cent of workers aged over 55 are proposing to work beyond the state pension age and the default retirement age has been abolished.

Yet research shows people aged over 50 are still the least likely to be recruited, despite the fact that since the scrapping of the Default Retirement Age (DRA) it is: “unlawful to discriminate directly or indirectly on grounds of age in the workplace, and in recruitment and dismissal, except where it is objectively justified.”

Steve Webb continued: “We’re certainly not suggesting older workers take jobs away from younger people, nor that people should be continuing working into their 70s. Instead, we’re saying it’s time businesses allow people to fulfil their professional potentials and that employers heed to the competitive edge older workers bring to their businesses.”

The new guide advises employers on how to hire and retain older workers in order to build a multi-generational workforce. Amongst the suggestions is offering apprenticeships and work experience opportunities to people of all ages.

Several employers have reported the benefits of employing workers in their 60s, including the broader range of skills and experience they bring.

McDonald’s, for example, say they have seen a 20 per cent higher performance in their outlets where 60+ workers are employed as part of a multi-generational workforce. Similar benefits are reported by employers from all sectors and sizes which report the benefits as including:

  • acquiring a broader range of skills and experience;
  • opportunities for mentoring new recruits;
  • transfer of skills across the workforce; and
  • reduced staff turnover; and improved staff morale.

By Sara Bean