Tag Archives: older worker

Age of opportunity: Recruiting and retaining older workers

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This blog was contributed by Joanne Sawyer, Policy Adviser at Age UK

An ageing population, the end of forced retirement and a rising State Pension age, mean that there are now more older workers (those aged 50 or over) in the jobs market.  This trend is projected to increase over the next decade – between 2012 and 2022 there will be an extra 3.7 million workers aged between 50 and State Pension age.  Alongside this, given population changes, there will be fewer younger people entering work.  Employers and recruiters consequently need to embrace the ageing demographic of the workforce.

Working life for the over 50s

However, although the overall increase in employment rates among older workers is welcome, it does not tell the full story of working life for the over 50s.  Perceptions and stereotypes of older workers – usually negative – are still firmly held, and challenging these is vital for individuals, employers and society. They affect the way that older workers are treated when in work (e.g. in accessing training or promotion opportunities) and when out of work (e.g. long-term unemployment is a particular problem for the over 50s, with 44% of those who are unemployed having been out of work for over a year, compared to 32.0% for all 16-64 year olds).  Ensuring that older workers are not forced out of the labour market, and providing appropriate support to those who find themselves unemployed, remains crucial if we are to avoid storing up social problems for the future.

A Best Practice Guide for Recruiters

Age UK believes that it is in everyone’s interests for people to be able to remain in work for as long as they desire and are capable of doing so, and that no-one should be disadvantaged because of their age.  This is why we have partnered with the Recruitment and Employment Confederation to produce a best practice guide for recruiters.

Recommendations include:

  • Understand the benefits of recruiting older workers and promote the business case for employing this age group to clients.
  • Look beyond the stereotypes.
  • Provide information, advice and training to recruitment staff to help them understand and overcome the barriers faced by older jobseekers.
  • Be mindful of the language used in job adverts.
  • Seek to use a diverse range of platforms to advertise jobs.
  • Designate an internal advocate for older people.
  • Forge links wherever possible with welfare-to-work providers and Jobcentre Plus.

We call on all recruiters and employers to look beyond an individual’s age and make best use of the available skills and expertise of all workers.

Read the best practice guide for recruiters 

Read consumer advice about employment on the Age UK website 

The work well done

As the State Pension Age rises and people are being encouraged to work for longer, more and more employers (and the public too) are going to have to change their perceptions of older workers. Instead of believing the negative stereotypes and considering that older workers are likely to be less effective at certain jobs than their younger colleagues, perceptions need to change to recognise that each person is an individual with different skills and capabilities.

I came back from a short break in Catalonia, Spain, last week, where I learned about a common thread through the Catalonian culture: the ‘feina ben feta’ –or ‘work well done’.

I read about a local artistic movement by the turn of the last century which made of the quest for properly accomplished tasks one of its leitmotivs. In the park surrounding the monastery of Montserrat I came upon the monument to Joan Maragall, a poet, which includes the following call: “Strive in your endeavour as if the salvation of humanity depended upon each detail you think, each word you say, each piece you assemble, each blow of your hammer. Because it does depend on them, believe me”.

The following day I watched a programme on national TV about Teodoro Gómez. Mr Gómez takes the bus to work every morning. Nothing unusual here. He works at an industrial bakery set up by his grandfather –again, not uncommon for a long-standing family-run business. He weighs each baguette, for either the needle in the scale has to stop at 230 grams exactly or they are not sold. Well, a good example of ‘feina ben feta’ you might say, but still not much to make it on national TV.

One of his grandsons runs the ‘cakes and buns’ department and one of his granddaughters is in charge of one of the retail outlets. Grandson? Granddaughter? Oh, yes, for I forgot to mention that Teodoro is 100 years old. He still loves passing on his wealth of experience and expertise to the younger generations (some of his great-grandsons are already part of the staff). And not just his experience and expertise, but his values and work ethos too.

I came back from Spain with a whole new perspective of my own work. It goes beyond professionalism. It goes beyond doing proficiently what is expected. Señor Gómez is not from Catalonia, but he rolls his kneading pin as if human life as we know it depended on it.  I want to be part of his bunch.

Back in the UK, there are increasing numbers of people working past their State Pension Age. As pension values declines and the State Pension Age goes up, the longer-term trend will almost certainly be for more people to stay in work. Of course, most people won’t want to work until 100, but as we may have to work longer that expected it is essential to break down such negative stereotypes, especially that older workers will not perform as well.

Do you know of any British Teodoro’s? I would love to know about them, and perhaps they could even help Age UK to get this message across. What a privilege it would be to meet them.

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