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‘Older workers are vital for the future of the economy’ say UK businesses

Businesses are calling on employers across the UK to do more to retain and recruit older workers. At this time of change and uncertainty in the UK, harnessing the benefits that older workers can bring to workplaces and the economy is more important than ever.  


  • Between 2005 and 2015 the number of people working over the age of 50 in the UK has increased by 2.5m.
  • By 2022, the UK economy will need to fill 14.5m job vacancies created by people leaving the workforce and by new positions being created.
  • It is estimated that there will only be seven million young people available to fill them – leaving a labour shortage of 7.7m people.
  • Currently, one million older people who are not in work want to work – if just half of these were to move into employment GDP would increase by up to £88 billion a year1.


Retaining and recruiting older workers is critical to closing this labour gap say leading UK businesses.


The call is led by Business in the Community’s Age at Work Leadership Team, which includes companies such as Aviva, Barclays, Boots, the Co-operative Group, EY, Home Instead Senior Care, the Royal Air Force and the Department for Work and Pensions.


It coincides with the launch of Business in the Community’s new report, Age in the Workplace, which is supported by the Centre for Ageing Better and advises employers on how to implement practical changes to create age friendly workplaces.


Enabling older people to stay in work will bring benefits to individuals, to businesses and to the UK economy.


Andy Briggs, CEO of Aviva UK & Ireland Life and Chair of the Business in the Community Age at Work Leadership Team, said, “The UK has an ageing population and therefore an ageing workforce. The rising state pension age and the fact that most people are not saving enough for their retirement also creates a critical need for the industry to take action to ensure people can work longer, with opportunities that continue to be fulfilling and make best use of their skills and experience.  This shift in demographics needs to be harnessed by business, not feared, because there are real advantages to any business in having a diverse and representative workforce.”


Many companies already recognise the benefits of older workers, retaining skills and talents, having a diverse multi-generational workforce and better understanding their customers.


Steven Cooper, CEO of Personal Banking at Barclays, commented, “At Barclays, we care about multigenerational workforces because it matters to us to have a workforce that reflects our customers and a broad range of life experience. Our Bolder Apprenticeships programme finds new opportunities for people who might have thought their careers were over and our “Silver Eagles” are recruited from retired Barclays staff to provide a role model for younger colleagues and older customers, particularly in getting confident with digital skills.  Barclays has benefited by expanding its talent pool, increasing brand value, and gaining greater understanding of older customers’ needs.”


Shaun Crawford, Global Insurance Leader at EY, added, “At EY, our mission is to create a better working world, and making the most of our people at all ages is a part of that.  There has been plenty of public debate about what our ageing population means. Business in the Community’s Age in the Workplace report sets out what companies now need to do to retain retrain and recruit older workers.” 


The Age in the Workplace report focuses on three key themes – Retain, Retrain and Recruit – and shares good practice, with recommendations for a more inclusive workforce in which employees in later life can continue to make a valuable contribution. Examples include ensuring all line managers are offered adequate training and guidance relevant to managing the careers of people at all ages and stages of their careers, enabling remote working or flexible hours to support people working longer and investigating best practice in offline recruitment methods.


Rachael Saunders, Age at Work director, Business in the Community, said, “The shift to an ageing workforce needs to be harnessed by business. Retaining, retraining and recruiting older workers is critical to this. 


“We no longer have a default retirement age but established social norms entrenched over a long period of time must be addressed to ensure that recruitment and progression are fair for men and women of all ages. Real change is needed to address age bias and discrimination which are barriers to fulfilling work in later life.”


Through the report, and sharing and promoting evidence of what works, Business in the Community and the Centre for Ageing Better hope that more employers will see the benefits of an age friendly workplace and implement effective policies and practices.


Anna Dixon, chief executive of the Centre for Ageing Better, stated, “Being age friendly should be a marker of every successful organisation. Older workers enable businesses to retain skills and talents, have a diverse multi-generational workforce and better understand their customers. Yet many employers are not making the most of this talent.


“We know that being in fulfilling work increases our chances of a good later life. Work gives meaning and purpose, provides social contact and keeps us active. We want to ensure that people are able to make informed decisions and have control over where, when and how they work in later life. Age friendly employers that support people to stay in work who want to is key to helping people achieve a good later life.”


Picture courtesy of Pixabay

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