In 2006 when the TUC published its report, Ready, Willing and Able, on older workers in the workplace and the effect on the economy, it envisaged a completely different type of workplace in the future. The impact of the digital age had not been truly felt. In many ways the workplace has been revolutionised but in others it remains the same. The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 and the Equality Act 2010 are still being flouted by employers, albeit in a covert way, for example, by using advertising on platforms that allow them to limit who can see job vacancies and filter out older candidates. A surprising 67% of employers admitted to deliberately choosing candidates aged under 35 and almost the same number admitted to using IT tools to narrow the target based on excluding candidates on such criterion as age.
The TUC shrewdly observed that businesses who fail to employ older people on the basis of their age not only exacerbate the skills shortage in their companies but they lose access to the accumulated knowledge and expertise such workers have. Furthermore, this leaves the older workers dependent on the State which will have the knock-on effect of increases in State pension, cuts to public spending and forcing the younger working population to save more to ensure that their own retirement is adequately funded.
Natalie Oppenheim, the CEO of No Desire to Retire, the recruitment agency for older jobseekers, states that she has 26,000 older workers on her books all with a wealth of experience. She points out that there are some larger organisations that have embraced the older worker enthusiastically, Barclays and Aviva have both got recruitment schemes aimed purely at the experienced workers. Boots and the Co-op have committed to increasing their older workforce to 12% by 2022. Andy Briggs of Aviva has pointed out that Brexit is likely to leave businesses struggling even more to fill the skills-gap as the vacancies can no longer be filled by European workers. Ms. Oppenheim said that smaller businesses would also benefit from looking at the older worker who has already dealt with many situations and knows how to manage them.
One of the arguments that is put forward against recruiting older workers is that they are not so IT/digital savvy, Cisco Systems conducted research to see whether there was a difference in the older workers abilities and found that there was no significant correlation between a person's age and their ability to use new technology.
The CEO of Votesfor Schools, a start-up, credits his use of older workers for the growth of his firm saying one of the big advantages is that they do not need training and are good to go from day one. Business owners need only ask themselves - do we want someone with 30 years experience and has met every kind of crisis and found solutions, needs no training, knows how to conduct themselves in the workplace in front of clients, who is resilient, unlikely to move on in a couple of years, equally unlikely to have every Monday off due to a heavy weekend and can probably offer you the same advice as non-executive director. Capita Resourcing reports that 94% of employers believe that older employees could be the answer to bridging the skills-gap but only 23% actively look to recruit older people. It seems that British business is missing a trick. PwC's Golden Age Index report suggests that £80 billion could be added to the Gross Domestic Product if we followed Sweden's model of employing older people.
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