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How to retain and attract older employees

Older employee and younger colleague having a discussion in the office

Tens of thousands of employees over the age of 50 have left the workforce since the start of the pandemic. With UK firms facing a shortage of workers, what can employers do keep their older employees happy -- and perhaps attract others to fill vacancies?

Studies show that diversity -- in gender, age, race and background -- among a workforce makes for a stronger team and better performance. An exodus of older employees risks leaving an imbalance -- not to mention the loss of many years of valuable experience -- so it makes good business sense to tackle the issue head-on.

New figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal that the number of people aged 50 to 70 years moving from paid work to economic inactivity between the second and third quarters of 2021 was 87,000 higher than in the same period in 2019. This shift was driven by full-time workers, particularly men and those in professional occupations.

What's more, the study found that less than a fifth (18%) of those aged 50 to 70 who had left work or lost their job since the start of the pandemic have since returned to work.

Among older employees who had not returned to work, the majority (77%) of those aged 50 to 59 years said they left their previous job sooner than expected, compared with 57% of those aged 60 years and over.

Almost twice as many of those in their 50s would consider returning to work than those in their 60s, with social company being the most important motive, closely followed by money.

Employers looking to hire mature workers should consider offering a shorter working day and flexible hours, the findings suggest.

Part-time work is preferred by 69% of those aged 50 to 70 who would consider returning to work or are currently looking for paid work, and another 21% said they would consider returning either part-time or full-time. Just 9% said they would like to return full-time.

When asked about the most important aspect of choosing a new job, flexible working hours was the most frequently reported (36%), followed by working from home (18%) and something that fits around caring responsibilities (16%).

It's also worth remembering that training and development is beneficial for all employees, not just those at the start of their career. Recent research by PwC found that younger people are twice as likely as older people to get opportunities to improve their skills, and 22% of employees have been passed over for career advancement or training because of their age.

Speaking to People Management, Stuart Lewis, founder of Rest Less, a digital community for people in their 50s, 60s and beyond, said that workers over the age of 50 were "one of the most diverse cohorts of society", given that differences in health and wealth tend to increase over time, which could lead to "hugely different outlooks on working into midlife and later life".

"I think one thing that is universally clear is that more support and flexibility would encourage more people to either not leave the workforce or to come back into the workforce," Lewis added.

Posted by Fidelius on April 4th 2022

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