In the past, it was generally accepted that once you hit your 60s (or even your 50s in some cases) you were officially over the hill career-wise. But times are changing… a lot.

As a result of low birth rates and increasing life expectancy, not to mention the fact that pensions are getting smaller, the working population in the UK is steadily getting older. And this fact hasn’t escaped many forward-thinking businesses.

A survey of senior European executives carried out by the Economist Intelligence Unit in 2014 found that almost 3 quarters expected the number of their employees aged 60+ to increase by 2020, with 22% expecting it to increase significantly.

The same survey explored attitudes to older workers, and found that the majority of respondents believed older workers are no less productive, have greater skills and aren’t any less motivated than their younger counterparts.

A survey carried out the following year for the Department of Work and Pensions also discovered the vast majority of employers in the UK thought the specific skills of workers aged 50 and older were suitable for their business.

More than 3 quarters of those employers said the experience of workers aged 50 or older was a main benefit of employing them in their organisation, followed by the reliability of workers in this age group and the mentoring older workers provide to new workers. Only 3% thought there were no benefits to having workers aged 50 and older in their workplace.

It’s just as well, since UK businesses are going to need more older workers in the future, as there won’t be enough younger workers in circulation. According to the government, the over-50s make up 27% of the current workforce, and by 2020 it will be a third. A report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) also claims that by 2022 there will be an estimated 13.5 million job vacancies to fill, but only 7 million school and college leavers to fill them.

Lots to offer

Despite the fact that attitudes towards older workers in the UK are changing, they may not be changing fast enough. A report by the Department for Work and Pensions claims that although 88% of employers believe older workers can bring skills and benefits to their business, people aged 50 and older are least likely to be recruited once out of work.

Yet a recent Golden Age Index report by Price Waterhouse Cooper suggests that if the UK employment rate for people aged 55 to 69 were the same as that of Sweden, the country’s GDP would increase by around £100 billion.

So if older workers are still being overlooked, what should employers be made aware of to persuade them to hire more employees over 50?

Why you should be employing the over 50s

Here are a few reasons why employing more people in their 50s, 60s, 70s and even beyond would be good for business:

  • Older workers have a broad range of strengths and skills plus a wealth of knowledge, experience and valuable business contacts – all of which can be transferred to younger workers
  • Older workers are more likely to stick around (according to a Nationwide Building Society report, annual turnover is 4% for older employees compared with 10% for younger staff)
  • Another Nationwide survey suggests older workers are less likely to take time off sick than younger employees, despite being more likely to have a chronic health condition (45% of workers aged 55 and older hadn’t taken any sick leave in the previous 12 months compared with 36% of 18-24-year-olds)
  • According to a study by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, most people in their 50s say they feel as strong physically and mentally at work as they were in their 20s and 30s
  • Older workers are less likely to stay off work for any reason, suggests a report by B&Q, which claims absenteeism is 39% lower in older workers than in younger staff
  • Employing older workers could save businesses significant amounts of cash in recruitment and training costs too, says a survey by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education and the Centre for Research into the Older Workforce
  • Older workers will also be more able to relate to clients and customers effectively in the very near future, given that the population as a whole is ageing too
  • Many people aged 50 and older are also actively learning new skills. Research by the Equality and Human Rights Commission shows 21% of over-50s have trained to improve their job prospects, and 44% of 56-59-year-olds and 33% of 60-64-year-olds have taken part in training during the past 3 years

The fact that most people are living longer and in better health, combined with changes to the state pension age, means many people will be able to, or may have to work later in life.

If you need help, advice or support with any aspect of your career, we have a range of career development services on offer, from career coaching to back-to-the-workplace events. We also offer legal advice, including online information about your employment rights… whatever your age.

How CABA can help

CABA supports the wellbeing of past and present ICAEW members, ACA students, ICAEW staff members, and their spouses, partners and children up to the age of 25. For advice, information and support please: