New research from the TUC indicates that around a million people aged between 50 and 65 can’t get a job because employers won’t recruit older workers or retain the workers they already have by making adjustments.
The report, Ready, Willing and Able, says the vision of early retirement as luxurious is a myth for many retirees.
Of the 2.6 million 50-65 year olds who are currently unemployed or economically inactive – that is not working or actively looking for work – over a third want a job, with 250,000 actively looking and 750,000 who say they want work.
Also, despite an average retirement age of 63, only 12 per cent of non-working 50 – 65 year olds fit the stereotype of ‘early retired, affluent professionals’, only a third retire early ‘fully voluntarily’ and many survive on state support such as Incapacity Benefit or inadequate occupational pensions until they reach state pension age (65 for men, 60 for women but rising to 65 between 2010-2020).
Over the next ten years the number of people under 50 will fall by 2 per cent while the number aged 50 – 69 will rise by 17 per cent, massively increasing the ratio of pensioners to working people.
The TUC estimates that without an extra one million people in work by 2015 workers will face higher taxes, later retirement or old-age poverty.
TUC deputy general secretary Frances O’Grady, said: “Most baby boomers are not retiring early to cruise around the world or go bungee jumping. They have been dumped out of work and on to the scrapheap and are scraping by on benefits or small work pensions.
“By refusing to retain and recruit older staff, who want to work, employers are accelerating the demographic timebomb the economy is resting on.
“Companies need to ditch tired stereotypes of fifty and sixty-somethings and develop ‘age management’ policies which capitalise on the value of experienced staff by offering retraining and flexible working, and making minor changes for people with disabilities.”
Sarah Veale, head of equality and employment rights at TUC, says the forthcoming age discrimination regulations may well act as a “pressure point” to encourage employers to rethink their attitudes.
“One of our great hopes is that age discrimination will have an effect,” she said. “New laws often spur companies into ensuring they put policies into place and the experience from Ireland shows this is an area where employees will take action.
“Some employers already see older workers as an important resource but others don’t and it is these companies which should be applying capability procedures and sharpening up their management practices.”
The TUC is calling on employers to carry out age audits of their staff to establish an age profile of their workforce and negotiate an ‘age management’ policy with trade unions and employees to eliminate age discrimination and retain older workers. This should include identifying and supporting training needs and offering older staff flexible working to ‘downshift’ towards retirement.
Age management policies should consider requests for reasonable adjustments to work stations, equipment and working practices for older workers, many of whom may have a right to this under the Disability Discrimination Act.
Key findings from Ready, Willing and Able:
- The UK has a higher employment rate for older workers than most EU countries, with 1.5 million more older people in work than in 1997, but has the second highest proportion of inactive 50-65 year olds who want to work – double the EU average.
- The employment rate falls 16 per cent for men aged between 50 and state pension age compared to that of 35-49 year olds (from 88 per cent in employment to 72 per cent) and 8 per cent for women (from 76 per cent to 68 per cent). Economic inactivity rates double between age 55-60 for men (from 17 per cent to 35 per cent) and women (from 31 per cent to 60 per cent).
- Poor health is the commonest reason people aged between 50 and state pension age leave a job and nearly half (45 per cent) have suffered a health problem for at least a year. Older people in the UK are much more likely to be economically inactive due to a disability than in any other EU or OECD country, this is especially true for over 60s.
- One piece of research showed that 40 per cent of men and 20 per cent of women retired earlier than they expected, and employers instigated two-thirds of these early retirements. Another study found that half of those retiring early said it was their choice but only a quarter had voluntarily accepted a good deal.
- More people say they have faced age discrimination than any other type with those over 55 being almost twice as likely to suffer this than any other form of discrimination.
The full report is available at: www.tuc.org.uk