To harness the skills and experience older workers possess, employers need to improve the way they recruit, train and retain older workers in the first place.

The situation

Older workers represent a rising proportion of the UK workforce, with 32.6% of the workforce over 50, up from 21% in the early 1990s.. However, the employment rates of older workers still decline rapidly after they enter their fifties for a range of reasons including early retirement, ill health or a move to self-employment.

Older workers looking to enter or re-enter the workforce find it generally harder than other age-groups to find new employment, often as a result of discrimination or bias on the part of employers and recruiters.

A lack of flexible working can also make it harder for older workers to remain in employment, particularly if they have caring responsibilities or have a disability or long-term health condition.

Unless more employers improve how they recruit, train and retain older workers they are likely to face increasing skill and labour shortages.

CIPD viewpoint

The CIPD is committed to the removal of age discrimination in organisations. CIPD research shows that age-diverse teams can benefit both individuals and their organisations. Genuine inclusion with equality of opportunity boosts workforce diversity, helps address skill and labour shortages and benefits an organisation’s reputation and brand.

Given our aging population, the proportion of older workers in the workforce is expected to increase, especially if retirement age rises in the future. Therefore, it is crucial that employers establish the people management policies and practices needed to recruit, train and retain an age diverse workforce, and harness the skills and experience they have effectively. According to CIPD research, only a fifth of employers currently have a strategy agreed at board level to manage a more age diverse workforce. Furthermore, research by CIPD/Reed (2022) found that just 18% of organisations focused on age diversity and inclusion during the previous 5 years. These are statistics that needs to improve.

Actions for the UK Government

  • Launch an 'Age Confident' campaign and a wider, national rollout of a ‘mid-life career’ review for people aged 50 and over, to be facilitated by employers and by the government using online support and through the National Careers Service.
  • Support the activities and recommendations of the Flexible Working Task Force aimed at increasing the predominance of sustainable flexible working. This is likely to be beneficial to the recruitment and retention of older workers.
  • Introduce buildable individual learning accounts (ILAs), designed around the principles outlined in the CIPD's Skills to grow report and should primarily be targeted at adult upskilling. 
  • Introduce, and implement nationally a preventative and targeted occupational health service to support organisations and ensure workers get early access to support. Given more than half of workers have a long-term health condition by the time they reach 60, supporting workers throughout their lives maximises the chances of them having a healthy and active life as they get older.

Recommendations for employers

  • Use strategic workforce planning to understand the diversity and skills profile of the workforce and the extent it is equipped to meet the organisation’s future skills and labour requirements. Use this data to inform recruitment and people management and development practices.
  • Improve recruitment practices to eliminate bias, for example:
    • Frame and word job adverts with care, ensuring that they aren’t age-biased. 
    • Circulate job adverts as widely as possible, using multiple platforms. 
    • Regularly collect and scrutinise age data from the recruitment process. 
  • Invest in training, development, and improving performance management to ensure older workers do not miss out on opportunities.
  • Support employee health and wellbeing, for example, by providing access to an occupational health service. Poor health is one of the biggest reasons for economic inactivity among those in their 50s.
  • Offer flexible working – changes in working arrangement can support those with ill-health or caring responsibilities.
  • Offer phased retirement options – managers should have open and honest conversations with older workers without making assumptions about their retirement intentions.

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and inclusion

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