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Insurance firm Aviva produced a report this week finding that in the UK, 6.4 million over-50s workers were planning to retire later than they expected compared to 10 years ago. The report found that this was due to the rising cost of living and insufficient pension savings. Government research predicts that by the mid-2030s half of all adults in the UK will be over 50 years of age. By 2025 there will be 300,000 fewer UK-born under 30s. This development combined with the UK’s proposed departure from the EU resulting in fewer EU workers arriving means that there is likely to be a huge increase in necessary reliance on older workers within the UK economy. Aviva are accordingly urging businesses to “increase their commitment to older employees and help them adapt to a longer working life.”

The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee also published a report last month highlighting the “discrimination, bias and outdated employment practices” leading to more than a million people over the age of 50 being out of work. The Committee suggested that neither the Government nor the Equality and Human Rights Commission (“EHRC”) are doing enough in the recruitment sector to help these individuals get back in to work. The Committee concluded that the Government and the EHRC are failing to enforce the law on age discrimination, calling for specific enforcement initiatives across both the public and private sectors. The Committee stated that “the rationale for Government action is twofold: on the one hand, retaining older workers, and their skills and experience, in the workforce is good for the economy and makes the state pension more affordable. On the other hand, working longer is viewed as benefiting the financial, health and social wellbeing of individuals.”

The Committee report also highlighted that when they asked individuals what the biggest barrier to older people working, “almost all told us that it was age bias and discrimination, most significantly in recruitment.”

Recommendations

The Committee puts forward several recommendations as to what they believe can be done to address the issues and try and get more over-50s back in to work, the highlights include:
• Recommending that the EHRC develop a clear plan to tackle age discrimination in employment.
• The Committee believes the Government should work with representatives of the recruitment industry to develop a plan of action to ensure that outdated stereotypes do not cause illegal age discrimination in recruitment. This should include the collection and publication of data on the age profiles of job seekers and those finding work.
• The Committee recommends that the Government introduce mandatory regulations to require all public-sector employers, and private and voluntary sector employers with more than 250 staff, to publish the age profile of their workforce.
• The Committee and its predecessor have previously recommended that all jobs should be available on flexible terms unless an employer can demonstrate an immediate and continuing business case against doing so and want this to be implemented.
• The Committee recommends that the Government put unpaid leave for working carers on a par with that for parents, and introduce a statutory right to four weeks of unpaid carer’s leave per year.

Commentary

Everyone has an age and each age brings its own issues however some individuals aged over 50 experience detriment directly linked to their age and the barriers for them can be greater. Such barriers however often have more to do with misconceived perceptions than with the actual capacities of the individuals concerned. Disadvantages ranging from unconscious bias through to crude discrimination remain significant factors within employment and the workplace despite now long established protection under the law. Older people are perhaps rarely invited to the diversity initiative party. The ageing profile of the available indigenous population combined with fewer young migrant workers arriving means that the UK could potentially be heading towards a recruitment crisis unless significant steps are taken to break down some of the age old barriers identified to older people continuing to be able to play a full part within the UK work force.

If you have any queries about any of the issues raised above please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Stronachs Employment Team.

Eric Gilligan, Partner (age 46) and Ross Michie, Trainee Solicitor (age 26)

 

Chambers UK 2018

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