Older workers and the Recruitment Industry (Age)

Every country in the world is experiencing growth in both the size and the proportion of older people in the population. People are living longer, and working for longer.  In the UK alone, people aged 50 years and over make up an increasing proportion of the workforce. Prior to the onset of the pandemic, almost a third of workers were aged 50 years and over (Living longer - Office for National Statistics - ons.gov.uk).

However, stark warnings came with the end of the furlough scheme. According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, older workers were deemed vulnerable “more so than the young people who were hardest hit at the start of the pandemic…noting that only a third of those over 50 who had lost jobs during the pandemic had managed to find a new one within 6 months” (Older workers and Londoners face highest risk as furlough scheme ends | Financial Times). Indeed, there was a decline in the number of those employed aged 50 to 64 years over the year December 2020 to February 2021, despite an increase in the population aged 50 years and over in this period. This decline was driven by those aged 50 to 54 years and over 65s.

The Recruitment Employment Confederation (REC) state that UK employers need to fill 13.5 million vacancies over the next ten years, but only 7 million young people will leave education over the same period. So without the input from older workers, there will be less growth in the economy in the future. Official figures show that halving the employment gap between people aged 50 and state pension age and those in their 40s could see income tax and National Insurance receipts rise by 1% (just under £3 billion) and GDP up to 1% (£18 billion). It could also reduce the welfare bill, with £7 billion a year currently being spent on benefits for people aged 50 to state pension age who are out of work (Figures from Fuller Working Lives: evidence base 2017 www.gov.uk).

However, all too often older workers are overlooked and those seeking to enter or re-enter the workforce find it generally harder than other age groups to find new employment, often as a result of discrimination or bias on the part of employers and recruiters (Focusing on Age Inclusive Recruitment| CIPD Voice). There is a need for greater equality of opportunities in the workplace, since older workers in the UK experiencing age discrimination in recruitment and progression as they are less likely to be offered opportunities for development (Older workers crucial to future of UK economy | Centre for Ageing Better).

The proportion of older workers who are planning to work from home following the pandemic has increased. Previous research has shown that flexible working is a factor in enabling older workers to remain employed; in June and July 2020, older workers working entirely from home were more likely to say they were planning to retire later compared with those not working from home (Living longer: impact of working from home on older workers). The Centre for Ageing Better produced a report which calls for better access to flexible working arrangements and workplace adaptations in order to help people manage pressures such as caring responsibilities and health conditions, which become more prevalent with age. If more organisations facilitate flexible working (including working from home), this would enable more workers, especially older workers, to remain in the labour market for longer and support the economy (Becoming an age-friendly employer | Centre for Ageing Better).

So what next?

Organisations will need to review and adapt their policies, processes and approach to recruitment including being age-inclusive. REC in partnership with the Centre for Ageing Better and Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD), have developed a guide on how to be an age-inclusive recruiter. This guidance is based on the Centre for Ageing Better’s Good Recruitment for Older Workers (GROW) project findings. The guide provides practical suggestions for employers to become more age inclusive, covering 5 key actions:  

  1. Include Age in your Diversity Policy– ensure that age is specifically recognised as a protected characteristic in any Equality Diversity & Inclusion policies.
  2. Know your numbers– analyse the age profile of job applicants to check that you are attracting candidates of all ages.
  3. Advertise without age bias – avoid any age requirements or the use of stereotypical language and emphasise a range of benefits that might appeal to older workers.
  4. Check your process– structure the interview process using multiple decision-makers and pre-defined questions.
  5. Build awareness and confidence– provide training to ensure staff are aware of how best to reduce bias and avoid discrimination.

More detail on these actions, and the rest of the report can be found here

Lizzy Turek

Client Research Associate

Older workers and the Recruitment Industry (Age)