The case is clear: businesses must support older workers

14 June 2016 -


Intergenerational workforces and diversity of thinking are just some of the business case for supporting older workers in employment

Guest blogger Rachael Saunders

While the numbers of people in work over state pension age are increasing, there is still a cliff edge in employment levels after the age of 50. Too many older workers lose their job involuntarily through redundancy, the inability to balance work and a caring responsibility or ill health, or early retirement.

They then find it hard to return to work. Older workers are being failed at every turn.

The business case for supporting over-50s to stay in work has never been stronger. There are three key business case drivers:

One – talent and retention. Between 2012 and 2022, an estimated 12.5 million jobs will be opened up through people leaving the workforce and an additional 2 million new jobs will be created, yet only 7 million new young people will enter the workforce to fill these jobs. Business needs to retain older workers in order to grow.

Secondly – customer insight and empathy. With an ageing population, more industries will find that their customers are ageing too. A workforce that reflects the age profile of your customer base will avoid an empathy gap, help you deliver the best possible customer service, and ensure that business has a strong knowledge and understanding of its customers, regardless of age.

Thirdly - age diverse and multi-generational innovation. There is a huge opportunity to make the most of five generations of diversity of thinking and life experience. Business has made real progress on women’s leadership, and on race equality – not just because it is the right thing to do, but because organisations benefit from the innovation and ideas that come with different perspectives and experience at work.

The ‘missing million’

Despite this powerful business case, our research shows that older workers are not finding the opportunities or getting the right support and, where they do succeed, it is because of their own networks and efforts – not because employers have a strategic approach to recruiting older workers.

Our ‘Missing Million’ report found that a million people over 50 have been forced into involuntary retirement. Our follow-up report ‘Missing Million: Pathways back into employment’ found that workers in the over-50s bracket are being forced to start their own businesses or go into unpaid work due to ageism in traditional labour markets.

We believe that business has a powerful role to play to build a fairer society, and that employers are fundamental to supporting people in later life that simply want to stay in – or gain – employment. With an ageing population, business needs to take action now to prevent early exit from the workforce, support later life working and make the most of intergenerational workplaces.

The need to develop a long-term strategic approach to recruiting, retaining or retraining older workers and managing an intergenerational workforce is crucially important for businesses – in tackling skills gaps and in the development of the products and services that will allow their business to thrive with an ageing population.

We are asking employers to acknowledge this changing landscape and adapt their working processes to ensure that an ageing and intergenerational workforce has equal access to employment.

We have recently launched a partnership with the Centre for Ageing Better, calling on employers across the country to share examples of approaches they are taking to ensure workplaces and job roles maximise the contributions of those working in later life. We want to test and develop these ideas and will be sharing them widely so that all employers can benefit and apply what we learn.

If we get this right, it will not only benefit more than 1 million people aged over 50, but will pay substantial dividends for the UK economy, businesses and local communities.

To share your age friendly workplace examples, please get in touch. Email:

Powered by Professional Manager