Employment and Older People by fpk13484


									Employment and Older People
Help the Aged Policy Statement 2006


Age discrimination is a significant barrier to the employment of older people and is found in
all stages of the employment process: recruitment, training, re-training, redundancy and
retirement. The National Audit Office recently reported that the economy loses up to £31bn
per year due to low employment levels of older people 1 .

Action to tackle age discrimination in employment is coming through the European
Employment Directive which will need to be transposed into law by October 2006.
However, there is still a need for:

      •   Greater priority for adult career guidance and re-training;
      •   the removal of upper age limits for re-training programs;
      •   an end to mandatory retirement ages.

Statistics used throughout this statement cover Great Britain unless otherwise stated.

84% of men over age 50 were working in 1979; 72% were working in 2004 2 . In contrast,
2002 saw one million more people between 50 and State Pension age receive Incapacity
Benefit and/or income support than in 1990. At a time when saving schemes are
increasingly precarious and about 20% of pensioners are living in poverty, a greater
choice in employment and activity for older people should be a higher priority than ever

In conjunction with the promotion of more effective saving strategies, the encouragement
of continuing employment gives greater choice for individuals as to the nature of their life
in older age. Evidence suggests that work, as opposed to inactivity, brings with it better
health and greater self-esteem as well as income. Far from denying the ‘right to
retirement’, the removal of a number of obstacles and the creation of full and fulfilling
employment opportunities has the potential to provide more secure and active futures.

The period between the ages of 45 and 55 is currently widely seen as the final stage of
working life. This perception must be challenged amongst employers, Government, other
agencies and occupations relating to the labour market. However, employees and
prospective employees must be at the centre of any shift. Age discrimination needs to be

    Welfare to Work; Tackling the barriers to the employment of older people, NAO, Sept 2005, p4
    TAEN Briefing ‘Key data on age, demographics and employment’, October 2005
contested at all stages of the employment process: recruitment, training, re-training and

Issues and Evidence

   •   There are over 1.5 million job vacancies on any given day and there are more than
       a million people over 50 who would like to be working.
   •   A person made redundant after age 50 is eight times less likely to return to work
       than a person made redundant at a younger age.
   •   In a survey of 300 employers, 80% said that they supported the idea of people
       working into their 60s but 75% had no employees over 60.
   •   The employment rate of people aged 50-65 is 14% below the 82% rate for the 25-
       49 age group.
   •   The number of those between 50 and State Pension Age on Incapacity Benefit
       and/or Income Support has risen from 330,000 in 1990 to 1,400,000 in 2002.
   •   8 to 13 million people (almost 50% of the working population) are deemed to have
       non-existent or seriously inadequate savings for retirement.
   •   In a budget of £8 billion for adult learning (excluding higher education) only £300
       million is spent on career and change management advice for adults.

Government Position
The ‘Pathways to Work’ scheme established under the Department for Work and Pensions
is to be credited for its progressive approach to a segment of the community who might
otherwise feel cut off from future employment. In addition, proposed changes in taxation
systems which encourage a phased shift from employment to retirement are welcomed.

The Government’s New Deal 50 Plus scheme has a number of encouraging features. It
provides a personal service, training opportunities, skills courses and, in some cases,
training for self-employment and the establishment of a small business. However, the
scheme only targets those who have been receiving certain benefits for more than six
months. This strategy has nothing to offer those who are unhappy with their present job
and wish to re-train and is still reliant upon a change in expectations as to suitability of

Age Discrimination
People aged 50-64 represent 1/3 of people of working age; 1/5 of those actually in work
and 1/10 of those on employer and government training programmes. Anti-age
discrimination legislation in employment, due for introduction in 2006, is very welcome but
will need to be backed up by strong enforcement mechanisms. There is also a need for a
positive approach to encouraging age equality and a need to lose the raft of let-out
clauses excusing discrimination in some sectors. The proposed legislation will not apply
to goods and services where a number of age-based rules influence patterns of behaviour.
Age discrimination in the voluntary sector is likely to continue if legislation is not extended
to this important area in the way that gender and racial legislation have been.

The Help the Aged Position
Help the Aged is collaborating closely with the Third Age Employment Network to promote
the concept of ‘a lifetime’s employment’ including greater numbers and quality of
employment possibilities available for as long as employees are willing and capable to fill
them. The following areas are priorities:

   •   Greater priority for adult career guidance and re-training extending good practice in
       the public and private sectors.
   •   The removal of upper age limits for re-training programs such as modern
       apprenticeships and on employment rights.
   •   The encouragement of more flexibility in retirement ages and the end of mandatory
       retirement ages.
   •   Improve awareness amongst employees and prospective employees regarding
       existing and upcoming legislation on age-discrimination in the work place.

Economic Justification
A recent study showed that the paid work of over 50s is worth £201 billion and that unpaid
contributions by older people, in the form of caring, are worth £24 billion. Further to this, it
suggests that up to one million extra people could potentially be in work, if existing barriers
were removed. These findings challenge the position that an ageing work force
represents a ‘demographic time-bomb’. It is essential that employment structures are
adapted to embrace this changing pattern to bring greater prosperity for employees and
the economy as a whole. In fact, a recent report by the NAO highlighted the fact that up to
£31bn was being lost to the economy each year due to low employment levels of older

Help the Aged Activities

Help the Aged actively supports the Third Age Employment Network (TAEN), a registered
charity which is based in our offices and promote the concept of ‘a lifetime’s employment’.
We are campaigning against a mandatory retirement age.

TAEN works towards its objectives through information and experience sharing activity at
its National Conference and via an extensive Membership Directory. It produces briefings,
newsletters and advice and updates via its web-site (www.taen.org.uk) which has a new
member’s area. It runs an information line for employees and employers and promotes
mature people’s employment and training through the media and public events. It works in
collaboration with a number of national and international organisations in a variety of
fields, including the voluntary sector.

Help the Aged is part of the Access to Justice project, which aims to ensure that the new
age discrimination legislation is implemented and assist people in taking forward cases
under the new law. Help the Aged will be producing a diagnostic toolkit for advice givers
and information for individuals.

Help the Aged and Third Age Employment Network, Work after 60: Choice or necessity,
burden or benefit? (2003).

Pamela Meadows and Volterra Consulting, The Economic Contribution of Older People.
Age Concern (2004).
Help the Aged, What do you expect at your age? Help the Aged conference on age
discrimination. Help the Aged (2003).

Date of Last Update
January 2006

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