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    Overpaid? Over-the-hill? Over retirement? Why over-50s are heading back to work

    24 August 2022

    Punter Southall Aspire

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    2 minute read

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    Two eye-catching trends exemplify the changing shape of the 21st century workforce.

    The first is that the biggest group to leave their jobs during the pandemic were the over-50s. By itself, this might not be too surprising. Research and anecdote also found many others re-considered their life and work in the shadow of the coronavirus.

    But what came after is, I think, less predictable. A significant proportion of this age who stopped work are now either returning or want to come back.

    It’s been called The Great Return, which not only sounds like a dodgy Western, but doesn’t really do justice to what’s happening. I think it’s more complex.

    As I’ve laid out before, age discrimination still haunts our economy. Whether by accident, design or a combination of both, older workers can find themselves at the wrong end of recruitment and redundancy.

    The fact is, most of us know colleagues and contacts caught in the thorns of this treacherous landscape. Those who can’t land a job or find themselves – usually as a result of generally earning more – out of a job in the latest redundancy round.

    So when the headlines talk of a record number of vacancies, of business desperate to hire and, not only that, of experienced, proven 50 or over candidates re-joining the workforce, how do we help people make sense of where they are?

    As ever, the space between the news stories and surveys is informative.

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    We’ve been championing the contribution older workers bring and speaking plainly about how business can really benefit from remoulding their attitudes and processes to create a workspace and routine which rewards both them and their more mature employees.

    Some of the group in question might need the flexibility hybrid working will give them to look after ageing relatives. Or they might simply want the latitude it brings which translates into improved job satisfaction and productivity. Money will always be a reason but so, too, were re-establishing the connections and contacts associated with working life.

    If you’re a builder, policeman or nurse, it’s clearly daft to expect you to work from home but this misses the point. Where changes can be made, where technology offers a liberating experience and where managers - for it is they on whom responsibility for these changes rest – can forge a more flexible regime, clear advantages for both employer and employee lie ahead.

    The chief executive of John Lewis makes the same kind of plea but for a more enlightened approach to retirement, building in more flexibility and the opportunity to return or retrain to do something different, rather than stopping for good.

    The risk, as she sees it, is with one million-plus vacancies and inflation, companies will be forced to pay more for the people they want, adding to that inflationary pressure. If you expand your potential recruitment tool, these are risks you at least address positively.

    As a former Treasury mandarin, Dame Sharon White, knows of what she speaks and is, I think, in a prominent position to lead by example. After all, pension consultants advise but employers - our clients - decide. It will be interesting to read her next thoughts on this.

    In fact, she’s welcome to join our upcoming discussion. We will be covering what practical options are in front of us for what is even more urgent post-pandemic and what looks more like pre-recession (I hope not): how to make workplaces more older-age-friendly. In doing so, we can harness the abundant experience the economy is crying out for during challenging times for business.

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    Whether by accident, design or a combination of both, older workers can find themselves at the wrong end of recruitment and redundancy.

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