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65 Going On 45

The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) disclose that the number of people aged 65 and over in employment has reached one million for the first time. The ONS has put this down to the fact that more people are taking advantage of the removal of the default retirement age and staying on in work. There are more people of this age group in the population than ever before.

Many employers find that employing older workers has many benefits, but the term ‘older’ does still carry a stigma and some businesses are reluctant to hire people on the basis that old age must carry problems. We do so love to typecast people, even when there’s no evidence to support it. Every age carries problems! They just vary depending on where we are in life! The assumption that tends to be made that mature workers will be more prone to health issues. Additionally, there is also the stereotype that older workers will be set in their ways and are a lot harder to mould than a younger person with no previous life experience. Whilst this might be true to a small degree, most older workers are not grumpy old men and women and there are plenty of examples which prove just how beneficial an age-diverse workforce can be.

Wetherspoons for example, has more than 750 outlets across the UK. Being a pub company, the industry is very youth-orientated which means that in the past, attracting applications from the older age bracket has been tough. The company wanted to diversify their workforce, and so it altered its recruitment processes and revised its benefits. The company introduced flexible hours, which allows the employee to strike a balance between work and family or other commitments. Older workers, who might only be looking to work a few hours a week, are often called in during the chain’s busiest lunchtime period which works well for the company and for the employee. Wetherspoons have said that older workers have brought life experience into the mix, which helps them relate well to their guests and bring good quality customer service.

As well as the points already mentioned, it’s also worth noting that older workers can provide invaluable guidance, knowledge and support to the younger members of your team (something about which I remind our trainees regularly just in case they don’t appreciate the pearls of wisdom I drop into their laps!)

Generally the business benefits of an age diverse approach are that:

  • the company is better able to reflect its broad customer/client base;
  • the company can keep up-to-date with demographic change;
  • older workers tend to stay in the business for longer, so staff retention levels are high;
  • life experience is beneficial to most job roles; and
  • recruitment from a wider talent pool helps to fill skills shortages.

Before the default retirement age was abolished, it was almost expected that retirement was the only option when somebody reached the age of 65. Employers traditionally focused on issues which encourage the early retirement of workers, rather than looking at organisational policies to support older workers to stay in the company. Wetherspoons puts its success down to the fact that they have understood what motivates individuals to continue to work. By understanding this, and factoring it into their recruitment, they have not only been able to attract older workers, but retain them too.

Over the next ten to twenty years, older workers will make up a growing proportion of the workforce and it’ll become even more common to see somebody working well into their seventies. Given that it’s set to become more common in the future, it makes sense to realise the benefits now and alter your recruitment procedures accordingly.

Russell HR Consulting provides expert knowledge in HR solutions, employment law training and HR tools and resources to businesses across the UK.

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