Press release

Helping business to wake up to older workers' untapped potential

Minister for Pensions Steve Webb launches a new action plan to help older workers stay in the workplace

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

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British business must realise the potential of older workers and help people to stay in the workplace – Minister for Pensions Steve Webb will stress today (13 June 2014) at the launch of a new action plan.

The government’s new measures to support the economy, workers and businesses are set out in Fuller Working Lives – a framework for action published today.

The plan finds the economy could have been boosted by £18 billion in 2013 if the employment gap between people in their 40s and those aged 50 to State Pension age was halved.

Infographic showing that there are more over 50s than ever before in employment (8.9 million in 2013) but that 2.9 million people aged 50 to State Pension age are still out of work

Pensions Minister Steve Webb said:

Older workers have a huge amount to bring to any workforce and are a vast untapped talent.

We are living longer and can expect many more years of healthy life. It’s great news – but it’s something that as a society and as an economy we need to respond to.

The business case is compelling and the research we are launching today sets out clearly the advantages for individuals, employers and the state.

As part of building a fairer society, I am determined that we boost our support for older workers and help employers challenge outdated perceptions to see the real strengths of this important section of the workforce.

New measures and action set out in Fuller Working Lives – a framework for action include:

  • we will extend the right to request flexible working to all employees in June 2014

  • the appointment of a new Older Workers’ Employment Champion – a respected and independent-minded figure who will advocate the case for older workers within the business community and wider society

  • the launch of a new Health and Work Service which will give workers with long-term health problems the support they need to stay in or return to work

Part of the government’s aim is also to challenge outdated misconceptions and encourage more employers to consider the benefits of older workers.

According to Office for National Statistics estimates, in the next 10 years there will be 700,000 fewer people aged 16 to 49 but 3.7 million more people aged between 50 and State Pension age – a fundamental shift in the age distribution of the UK workforce which industry cannot ignore.

While the UK employment rate for 55 to 64 year olds is around 60% and growing, the recent improvement has been relatively modest compared to many other nations, and several countries achieve employment rates of around 70% or above – so there is significant room for improvement.

Today Steve Webb is visiting Marshfield Bakery, a 30-year-old medium-sized family business based near Bath.

Marshfield Bakery has long recognised the benefits of employing older workers – currently employing 16 staff aged over 50 – and has led the way with initiatives to recruit, support and retain staff in that age group. The company will also be working with its local Jobcentre Plus to support new group information sessions for jobseekers over 50.

Chris Smith, Managing Director of Marshfield Bakery, said:

Our experience is that ensuring our workforce draws from a wide age range makes sound business sense. Older employees, with their unrivalled experience, play a critical role in our team, including in mentoring and developing their younger colleagues. It is in our interests as a business to retain the services of these high quality people for as long as possible.

Today’s announcement builds on previous measures over the past 4 years to tackle age discrimination in the workplace. These include the removal of the default retirement age, making it illegal to sack a person simply for turning 65.

The government has also introduced radical pension reforms to help people save for a prosperous retirement, including automatic-enrolment into workplace schemes for millions of workers, and legislation which will bring about a fairer, simpler new State Pension from 2016.

More information

Fuller Working Lives – a framework for action will be available to download from:

www.gov.uk/government/publications/fuller-working-lives-a-framework-for-action

The action to be taken over the coming weeks and months includes:

  • the appointment of a new Older Workers’ Employment Champion – a respected and independent-minded figure who will advocate the case for older workers within the business community and wider society
  • new Jobcentre Plus pilot projects offering tailored provision for older jobseekers in some offices
  • a Jobcentre Plus initiative to identify and understand particular barriers to employment for carers, with the aim of designing specific interventions to support them into work
  • the launch of a new guidance toolkit for employers to help them support older staff in the workplace, such as by making changes to working patterns or finding alternative roles for those with age-related health difficulties
  • the launch of a new Health and Work Service which will give workers with long-term health problems the support they need to stay in or return to work
  • new initiatives to support people combining paid employment with caring responsibilities
  • greater flexibility to combine pension income with earnings, and therefore plan a gradual retirement

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Published 13 June 2014