Older Workers in UK – Although their number in employment is rising, employment rates still drop sizeably reports says

Older workers account for a growing proportion of the UK workforce. As such, it is increasingly important to understand more about the working experiences of older individuals as well as the potential impact changes in the age composition of workplaces may have on their performance.

Key findings

(1) the proportion of workers aged 50 and over in the workforce rose from 21 per cent in 2004 to 24 per cent in 2011;
(2) the proportion of older workers in workplaces varies depending on a number of characteristics: industry; region; occupational group; workplace age; size; union recognition; and the presence of equal opportunities policies;
(3) the age composition of private sector workplaces does not have a significant role to play in explaining performance;
(4) equal opportunities policies have become more widespread, but practices have not;
(5) older workers are less likely to receive training than other workers, but those that do are satisfied with the training offered;
(6) on average, older workers report higher job satisfaction, wellbeing and perceptions of fair treatment than younger workers; and
(7) employees of all ages, who were able to work flexibly were more likely to be positive about their job.

Conclusions and implications

The majority of British workplaces do employ at least some older workers. But although the number of older individuals in employment is rising, employment rates still drop sizeably when people reach their 50s and 60s. Existing legislation has already sought to encourage participation and retention of older individuals in the labour market, and to address age-related discrimination.
While there has been an increase in the prevalence of formal equal opportunities policies explicitly mentioning age, far fewer workplaces have age-related equal opportunities practices in place. Findings from qualitative research commissioned alongside this study suggest some employers are wary of monitoring by age in case this is seen as discriminatory. This may be an area in which employers need reassurance.

Improving the experiences of older workers is important if individuals are to be encouraged to remain in employment for longer. While for some outcomes, such as job satisfaction, older workers on average appear to fare better than other workers, this conceals variation among this group. It may therefore be worthwhile to consider placing particular emphasis on improving outcomes for those older workers who currently have the poorest experiences at work.
The presence of age-related policies and practices was not typically associated with outcomes for older workers, with the exception of pay. Generating better outcomes for older workers may therefore require greater focus on other employer practices, such as provision of exible working or job design. These may have bene ts for employees of all ages, not just older workers.

Our results indicate that for private sector workplaces, the age composition of the workforce does not appear to play a sizeable role in explaining workplace performance. While a fall in the proportion of workers aged 22-49 was associated with a fall in workplace labour productivity, this was not carried through to nancial performance. Research has indicated that many employers value older workers, recognising their experience, loyalty and reliability. There may also be broader benefits for others within the workplace; we find some evidence that job satisfaction was higher among young workers in workplaces which employed higher proportions of older workers.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Older workers and the workplace: evidence from the Workplace Employment Relations Survey

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