Press release

Fundamental reform to fight ageism in the workplace: older workers’ scheme to tackle age discrimination

The government is rolling out an ‘older workers’ champion scheme across every part of the UK to tackle age discrimination, from April 2015.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


Over-50s jobseekers fighting ageism to get back to work will be given a boost through a world-leading new approach to preventing their talents being wasted, Employment Minister Esther McVey announced today (22 December 2014).

From April, the government is rolling out an ‘older workers’ champion scheme across every part of the UK to tackle the age discrimination that can force them into the much higher levels of long-term unemployment than their younger counterparts.

Intensive work support will be offered through the scheme with a ‘career review’, digital support for older jobseekers to get online and link-ups with local small and medium sized businesses with vacancies to fill.

Research shows if the 1.2 million workless over 50s who want a job were supported into work, it could add £50 billion to the economy as part of the government’s long-term economic plan.

Employment Minister Esther McVey said:

With 50 being the new 30, there are more and more older workers wanting to make the most of their skills and experience in a new career, and they have a hugely valuable contribution to make to any workforce.

Despite the recent impressive trends in those over 50 getting back into work, older workers still in many cases face outdated stereotypes when it comes to business hiring practices.

Not only is this a waste of valuable talent and ‘life skills’, but it’s a missed opportunity for businesses to make the most of their experience to support younger colleagues develop their careers.

As part of our long-term economic plan, our champions will tackle outdated views that older workers are somehow ‘past it’ so that more people get the security of a regular wage in 2015.

Pensions Minister Steve Webb said:

Older workers have an enormous contribution to make in the workplace and increasingly employers are waking up to this. But it’s also clear that old-fashioned and outdated perceptions still persist. That’s why we’ve made it a priority to support older workers stay in the workplace and to help employers understand their value – and we’re now going to take that even further.

About the ‘older workers’ champion scheme

Through the scheme, targeted and intensive support for older jobseekers will be trialled from April 2015 to include:

  • a ‘career review’ with a dedicated expert to recognise and champion their transferable skills from previous careers, and to ensure jobseekers get the training needed to fill any skills gaps for a move to a new career

  • business-facing regional, Welsh and Scottish ‘older worker’ champions in 7 areas of Great Britain who will focus on going out to smaller and medium-sized businesses to ensure they recognise the benefits of hiring older workers and to tackle outdated stereotypes that they are somehow ‘past it’

  • intensive digital support for older jobseekers where individuals identify a skills gap to moving into a new career

The champions will complement the work of the government’s ‘Older Workers’ Champion’ Ros Altmann to ensure training is appropriate to those who may already have several careers behind them.

Recent employment trends of older workers are improving significantly with more than 250,000 more people aged over 50 in work compared to a year ago. However unemployed people over the age of 50 still face higher risks of long-term unemployment than their younger counterparts. Evidence reveals that:

  • one quarter of women, and 1 in 6 men who reach State Pension age have not worked since they were 55

  • almost half (47%) of all unemployed people between 50 and 64 have been out of work for a year or more – this compares with 33% for those aged 18 to 24

Benefits of employing older workers

There is no evidence that employing older workers displaces younger people from the workforce, however the benefits of employing older workers include:

  • the fact that if the 1.2 million workless people over 50 who want a job got back to work, this could add around £50 billion to the UK economy (Missing Millions report)

  • where more people aged 55 to 64 are employed, there is a positive effect on the employment of their younger counterparts (Kalwij)

  • those aged 50 to 64 have an average job tenure of 13 years, compared with 7 years for those aged 25 to 49

Today’s announcement boosts recent measures announced as part of the government’s Fuller Working Lives strategy to make sure employers make the most of the skills and experience of those who change jobs mid-way through their career.

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Published 22 December 2014