Over-50s back to work? Get over ageism, then…


Steve Butler, CEO, Punter Southall Aspire
Steve Butler

THE UK government is on a drive to get over-50s back into the job market.

This has been prompted by the Great Resignation, with many workers taking early retirement, and a looming talent shortage that has left some sectors desperate for staff.

Older workers, it is hoped, can plug the skills gap and help post-pandemic recovery. Just one thing stands in the way — ageism.

The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) recently surveyed 1,000 UK managers in business and public service, and found that just four in 10 were open to hiring people aged 50 to 64. Older people are more likely to be seen as technophobic, lacking in ambition, or resistant to training.

Man and woman in office, older workers illustration
Image by gpointstudio on Freepik

This challenge is hard to overcome in an ageist society. The problem is endemic: it’s in the language, the newspapers, on TV. But many firms are losing older workers, or struggling to recruit over-50s.

Changing demographics make older workers a valuable part of a multi-generational workforce, and businesses can’t afford to lose their skills, experience, and knowledge. By 2025, there will be one million more people over the age of 50 — and they will make up a third of the working-age population.

Tips for supporting older workers:

  • Offer flexible, hybrid or part-time working options to help them fit existing responsibilities into their working day. Bear in mind that many want a better work-life balance at this stage of life.
  • Assess current recruitment processes and ensure adverts don’t discriminate or appeal only to younger workers. At interview stage, have a mix of age groups on the panel.
  • Provide training. Budgets are usually skewed towards younger generations, but older people can be encouraged to stay in the workforce with training and development opportunities.
  • Conduct midlife career reviews to identify needs and aspirations and stimulate conversation about next steps, second careers and flexible career solutions.

Steve Butler is CEO of Punter Southall Aspire.