Call for Employers to Commit to Employ More Older Workers

Andy Briggs, the Government’s Business Champion for Older Workers, has called for organisations to publish age data and commit to meeting a target to employ 12 per cent more employees over the age of 50 by 2022.

Briggs believes the pledge and release of data should go hand in hand so that others can see the progress of companies towards the target.

The call was echoed at a conference in Manchester this week in which Lord Filkin, the Chair of the Centre for Ageing Better, examined the elements required for better later lives, for an audience of researchers in the Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing (MICRA).

A number of UK employers have already accepted the 12 per cent commitment, including Aviva, Atos, Barclays and the Cooperative Group. They have also published information on the numbers of workers over 50.in their organisations.

Briggs believes that publishing workforce data by age will boost transparency into the number of older workers at different employers and encourage other employers to widen their talent pools to bring in more older workers.

The average age of UK workers is now 40, compared to 30 in 1974, whilst their employment rate drops to 64 per cent at the age of 60, compared to 83 per cent at the age of 50, according to Labour Force Survey statistics.

Briggs, CEO of Aviva UK Life, said: “The UK is facing a colossal skills gap, and older workers are vital to filling it.

“Businesses can show leadership here, through committing to real change and actively seeking to recruit more over 50s into their organisations.

“By being open about the progress they are making, they can also lead the way in demonstrating the benefits of having a diverse team of employees that represents all sections of society.”

He added that Aviva’s workforce has around 19 per cent of staff who are over 50, and that it “hopes to exceed rather than meet” the 12 per cent target.

Brigg’s plea is part of the Business in the Community Age at Work Leadership Campaign. (BiTC has been working with the Centre for Ageing Better, a foundation with £50 million worth of Big Lottery funding to transform the ways we react to and live with ageing over the next ten years.)

 The campaign has produced a guide to support organisations in publishing age data.

Rachael Saunders, Age at Work director at Business in the Community, said: “The UK simply cannot meet its growth and productivity objectives without adapting to retain, recruit and develop people aged over 50.”

“We have an ageing society and it is essential that employers act now to ensure employees can stay in work for longer and to support career changes in later life,” she said.

David Haley, senior vice president of Business Transformation Services for UK and Ireland at Atos, added: “We already have a strong representation of workers over 50 in our organisation, and we are committed to continuing to make the most of their talent and experience.

“Our next priority is to maximise the engagement and motivation of all our employees, with age as no barrier.”

Atos currently has one-third of its workforce over 50, and 0.45% between the age of 65 and 69.

However, Nick Elwell-Sutton, employment partner at Clyde & Co, has questioned how effective this measure might be. He said: “There has been plenty of talk about plugging the ever-widening skills gap, which is likely to get worse because of Brexit. However, it seems unlikely that the over-50s will be the ultimate solution.”

“For example, one of the industries that will be suffering most is hospitality, which is unlikely to attract the over 50s due to the nature of the jobs on offer. It’s not the managerial jobs that will face a severe skills-gap but the low paid and low skilled areas.

“These roles are often minimum wage and, for the time-being, zero-hours contracts. Unless businesses can make the roles more attractive, then it seems unlikely that the majority of older workers would want these jobs.”

More data for the first group of companies to publish age data can be found here.

Further resources

Older workers: how to get it right in the generation game

Top tips for avoiding discrimination when managing older workers


How to work without a compulsory retirement age