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Older people take centre stage in government's employment action plan

The Government’s new measures to support the economy, workers and businesses are set out in Fuller Working Lives – A Framework For Action published today.

The plan finds the economy could have been boosted by &pound18bn in 2013 if the employment gap between people in their 40s and those aged 50 to State Pension Age was halved.

Pensions Minister Steve 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. 

“The business case is compelling and the research we are launching today sets out clearly the advantages for individuals, employers and the state.

“As part of building a fairer society, I am determined that we boost our support for older workers and help employers challenge outdated perceptions to see the real strengths of this important section of the workforce.”

New measures and action set out in Fuller Working Lives – A Framework For Action include:

•           We will extend the right to request flexible working to all employees in June 2014

•           The appointment of a new Older Workers’ Employment Champion – a respected and independent-minded figure who will advocate the case for older workers within the business community and wider society.

•           The launch of a new Health and Work Service which will give workers with long-term health problems the support they need to stay in or return to work.

Part of the Government’s aim is also to challenge outdated misconceptions and encourage more employers to consider the benefits of older workers.

According to Office for National Statistics estimates, in the next 10 years there will be 700,000 fewer people aged 16-49 but 3.7 million more people aged between 50 and state pension age – a fundamental shift in the age distribution of the UK workforce which industry cannot ignore.

While the UK employment rate for 55-64 year-olds is around 60 per cent and growing, the recent improvement has been relatively modest compared to many other nations, and several countries achieve employment rates of around 70 per cent or above – so there is significant room for improvement.

Today (Friday) Steve Webb is visiting Marshfield Bakery, a 30-year-old medium-sized family business based near Bath.

Marshfield Bakery has long recognised the benefits of employing older workers – currently employing 16 staff aged over 50 - and has led the way with initiatives to recruit, support and retain staff in that age group. The company will also be working with its local Jobcentre Plus to support new group information sessions for 50 jobseekers.

Chris Smith, Managing Director of Marshfield Bakery, said:

“Our experience is that ensuring our workforce draws from a wide age range makes sound business sense. Older employees, with their unrivalled experience, play a critical role in our team, including in mentoring and developing their younger colleagues. It is in our interests as a business to retain the services of these high quality people for as long as possible.”

Today’s announcement builds on previous measures over the past four years to tackle age discrimination in the workplace. These include the removal of the default retirement age, making it illegal to sack a person simply for turning 65.

The Government has also introduced radical pension reforms to help people save for a prosperous retirement, including automatic-enrolment into workplace schemes for millions of workers, and legislation which will bring about a fairer, simpler New State Pension from 2016.

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