Government sets out strategy to support older employees to stay in work

The government has launched a new strategy to promote the benefits of remaining in work for longer, which includes encouraging employers to increase the number of older employees within their workforces.

The Fuller working lives strategy outlines how a coalition of job centres and employers can work together to support older employees to continue in their current careers or take on a new position, including a second career.

The Fuller working lives: a partnership approach report, published on Thursday 2 February 2017, details the social and health benefits of remaining in work for longer, as well as the need for businesses to retain, retrain and recruit employees over 50 years old.

A group of over 40 employers has led the business approach to supporting older employees in the workplace.

As part of the strategy, the government will provide extra support for groups who may need more help getting into and staying in work, such as individuals with long-term health conditions or disabilities; publish a wide range of evidence highlighting the benefits of working longer and of harnessing a multi-generational workforce; develop the support available through job centres for older employees; look to make apprenticeships more accessible to individuals of all ages and backgrounds by putting control of adult skills budgets in the hands of learners and employers, and achieving three million apprenticeship starts in England by 2020.

Damian Green, secretary of state for work and pensions, said: “Most people are healthier for longer and so are able to extend their careers and take up new opportunities. Staying in work for a few more years can make a significant difference not only to someone’s income but also their physical and mental health.

“I urge all businesses to reassess the value of older [employees]. Nobody should write off hiring someone due to their age and it’s unacceptable that some older people are overlooked for roles they would suit completely.”

Steven Cameron, pensions director at Aegon, added: “In today’s society, there’s no place for a ‘fixed retirement age’, and rightly so. Flexible working up to and beyond traditional retirement ages is becoming the new normal, and an increasing number of older [employees] with the prospect of a longer and healthier retirement, relish the opportunity to stay in work. This stems partly from the desire to continue on in some sort of employment to remain socially, physically or mentally active, all of which can be beneficial for health and wellbeing. However, financial considerations also feature as a key reason.”

Helena Herklots CBE, chief executive officer at Carers UK, commented: “The Fuller working lives strategy celebrates good practice from employers and Carers UK would like to see the government take one step further by creating a statutory right to paid time off to care so that more employees and employers can benefit from this.”

Tom McPhail, head of retirement policy at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “The key to a decent retirement lies in a working life which is long enough and rewarding enough to enable individuals to make adequate provision for themselves. The decisions we make as individuals about how much we save, how long we save for and how we invest our money will determine what kind of retirement we enjoy. The role of employers and government lies in making that as easy as possible.

“We welcome [the] announcement, however we are currently very concerned about whether the government can deliver a joined-up savings strategy which works for ordinary savers. It appears that at times some government departments are pursuing policies which actively work in opposition to each other. The reduction in the amount someone can pay in after flexibly accessing their pension is a policy which does nothing to enhance longer working lives.”