Ensuring older workers are able to stay in good-quality employment is essential to the future of the UK economy and will relieve pressure on public finances, according to a new report by the Centre for Ageing Better published today for the Intergenerational Commission.

Better work: design jobs for older workers

The Report argues that the key driver to keeping people working longer is to improve the quality of work. It suggests that increasing job quality and role design can help retain older workers.

A quarter of all workers in the UK do not think they could to do their current job over the age of 60, rising to one in three for lower-skilled manual workers. The Report suggest that employers must search for innovative approaches to job role design and more greatly exploit technology to assist and enable people to remain in good quality work for longer.

Back to work: support those older workers who want to return

The report notes that those aged 50-64 can struggle to return to work after a period of unemployment. Employment support has been targeted at younger people, so there is little evidence as to what actually works to support older job seekers.

Workplaces that work for everyone

The Report says that there are significant still age biases in the workplace. Older workers more likely to experience discrimination in recruitment.

It argues that discrimination law has not done enough to drive changes in behaviour. We need to open up discussions about age at work and do more to support both employers and older employees.

Investment in skills and retraining is vital across all ages of a business. But older workers are less likely to be afforded access to this. Across the whole of the OECD only Turkey and Slovenia have lower levels of on-the-job training for older workers than the UK. The report argues that we need much more investment in skills and retraining, and the creation of supportive workplaces offering meaningful work.

The policy recommendations

The recommendations made in the report are below.

Policies to prevent older workers from falling out of work

  • Ensure that existing initiatives and services such as Access to Work are tailored to the health profile and needs of older workers.
  • Enable workers to make a statutory request for flexible working upon point of hire, without having to wait 26 weeks.
  • Require statutory reporting of flexible working requests and responses. 
  • Introduce a right to return for both carers and people with long term health conditions.

Policies to support a return to work

  • Develop specialised employment support for claimants aged 50 and over, recognising the particular difficulties faced by this age group.
  • Create greater flexibility in the benefits system to recognise that not everyone can work, particularly in the context of the rising state pension age.

Policies to support workplaces that accommodate all ages

  • Introduce age bands in gender pay gap reporting to highlight pay inequalities faced  by older women in the workplace. 
  • Ensure open access and promotion of skills and progression opportunities for all ages. For example, the National Retraining Scheme and Lifelong Learning Partnership should incorporate the learning and training needs of older workers.