UK's Leading Businesses Urge Employers to Recruit Older Workers

06 September 2016 -


Mature employees are a vital cog in the business machine, with their industry expertise and well-honed skills

Jermaine Haughton

Barclays, the Royal Air Force, Aviva and a host of other leading UK businesses are urging all employers to be more proactive in retaining and recruiting older workers, as a new study reveals that employees aged 50 years or more are essential to filling the skills shortage across numerous industries.

To adequately prepare for catering to an increasing larger older population in the UK over the next generation, the new Age in the Workplace report - published today by the workplace equality think tank Business in the Community - concludes that keeping elder professionals in employment will maintain highly-desired skillsets, maintain a stronger workplace culture and provide growth opportunities for businesses of all sizes.

Furthermore, executives can utilise the effective retraining and hiring of staff over 50 years old to have a direct impact on their local communities and the national economy.

While 80% of people remain in employment at 50 years of age, the rate drops sharply when the average individual reaches 64 to 35%. 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 year.

Anna Dixon, chief executive of the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “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.”

The report identifies the business case for greater managerial and organisational support for older employees to be self-evident. On a financial level, the study states, support for older workers results in increased loyalty and retention, improving productivity and reducing recruitment costs - saving businesses anywhere up to £6,000 per employee.

The likely experience and matured expertise older workers bring to organisation can also help skills gaps and ensure that business harness a blend of younger and older professionals that can tailor their services and products to target the whole population.

A workforce that reflects your customer demographics will have invaluable insight into the products and services that will be most successful. Age-diverse workplaces benefit from a range of experiences, ideas and ways of thinking.

There are huge opportunities for businesses to harness the knowledge and creativity of multiple generations.


Businesses can retain older employees by making adjustments to roles and working patterns to extend their working lives. Offering flexible working, continuous training and carer support are just a number of ways suggested to appropriately support older workers.

A key concern of most employees past their 50th birthday will be their finances leading into the last twenty years in the workforce, and their retirement.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) estimates that around 12 million adults currently below state pension age are at risk of having an inadequate retirement income. DWP figures show that by retiring at 65 instead of 55, an average earner could have over £200k in extra income, and increase their pension pot by 60%.

Therefore, the BITC study suggest managers review and clarify workplace pension scheme communications to make sure people understand exactly what they will receive and recommend authoritative forecasting tools to help people plan financially for their retirement.

Bosses can also help unsure retirees by developing and promoting role models for each generational cohort to demonstrate successful planning and choices.

At automotive company Jaguar Land Rover, employees enrolled into its Retirement Transition Initiative (RTI), in collaboration with the Shaftesbury Partnership, gain access to the information, networks, peer-learning activities and socialising opportunities to help enter later life with confidence and purpose.

The corporation reports that its RTI scheme has led to 63% of participants starting planning for their finances, 36% reconsidering when they retire and 25% planning to earn once they start drawing a pension.

One participant said: “We have spent more time discussing our feelings about retirement this weekend than we have over the previous 30 years.”

As workers get older, their chances of being carers for their spouse or other dependents increases, with one in five people aged between 50-64 taking on the role, according to Carers UK. The body estimates that more than two million people have given up work at some point to care for loved ones and three million have reduced their working hours.

While many carers want to carry on working alongside their personal and family duties, the pressure and stress of integrating their caring responsibilities with their work life can be harmful to their performance, and, more importantly, their health.

By creating a formal written carers policy, employers who show that “they value and support carers will benefit from increased engagement and loyalty in return, leading to increased staff retention, deeper engagement and improved productivity”, the report states.

At multinational utility giant Centrica, managers show their support for staff, with carer responsibilities, with up to a month’s paid leave, altered working hours, mentoring, line manager training and a 1,000-strong carers’ support network (one in 36 of its workforce).

The company also signposts employees to external support organisations.

Estimates from the company are that the support available to carers has saved the company around £4.5 million in absence-linked costs, along with another £2 million on recruitment.

“Policies and practices that support carers are crucial to the resilience and success of our business,” said Ian Peters, Managing Director, Centrica. “However, it is not only carers who need support. Managers need to be aware of the issues working carers face, and to understand what is available to balance the needs of the business with those of the carer and other members of their teams.

“It is about knowing your employees and working flexibly with them to find solutions.”

Retrain well

The presence of the wisdom, maturity and experience of older employees working alongside younger, more energetic colleagues provides managers with an ideal environment for knowledge to be exchanged and new, stronger ideas to originate.

But with the continuous change in technology and ways of working, all staff need training to keep up to pace, but the data shows that older people are less likely to be offered training and less likely to take it up.

Just 11% of men and women over 60 received work-related training in the last year, compared to around 30% of those under 50.

The report argues: “Organisations need to reassess the training and development they offer to ensure that it is relevant to people at all life stages. They also need to consider the possible barriers that are preventing older people from taking up training opportunities, from embarrassment (should you carry out line management training if you have been a people manager for 20 years?) to line managers not seeing older workers as future leaders.

“Many of the skills needs that employers have identified are the same skills that they believe older workers are more likely to have.”

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