Tackling age bias: a national approach

You don’t have to look too far nowadays before you see reports on the “unconscious bias” workers aged 50+ in the United Kingdom are facing in securing employment. From our own regionally based Fuller Working Lives toolkit, to the wider national strategy that is being implemented, it seems that awareness of this issue is slowly spreading across the nation. But where did it all start? And is it as pressing an issue as it seems? 

In October 2016 a Government tsar urged British companies to employ an extra one million older staff by 2022 to help tackle the growing skills gap and age bias in the country’s workforce. Senior Aviva Executive and Government’s Business Champion, Andy Briggs, has called on every firm to lift the number of staff they employ between the ages of 50 – 69 years by 12% over the next 4 years.

Andy believes that if every company does their part, this could result in the number of older workers in the UK from a total of 9 million to 10 million. But why is this important?

By 2028, the retirement age for men and women in the UK will have risen to 67 years and by the middle of the 2030s, it is forecast that people aged 50 or older will account for over half of the country’s adults. However, despite the trend of an ageing population, there is still an “age bias” throughout the nation according to Mr. Briggs, who said:

Older people can be written off by their employers but we are asking employers to consider carefully the overwhelming benefits of having a diverse and representative workforce, and then act on it. We live in an ageing society so it is critical that people are able to work for as long as they need and want to.

Changing the composition of the workforce will not only allow for an inclusive and diverse workforce but it will help to solve the yawning skills gap the UK faces. By 2022, there will be an extra 14.5 million jobs in the UK but there will only be 7 million more new, younger workers. Keeping older people in the workforce, therefore, is vital for economic productivity and to ensure that the UK’s GDP is in a stable, if not increasing, position.

To tackle this issue, the Department for Work and Pensions launched its “Fuller Working Lives” strategy to encourage people to extend their careers and delay retirement. Employment Minister, Damian Hinds, spoke on the release of this stategy, saying:

I want to see more employers supporting older workers and taking full advantage of the benefits they bring to their business. Older workers can bring decades of valuable knowledge and experience to the workplace. There are now more older people in employment than ever before which is great news, but we must keep up this momentum as our population ages.

At the North East Growth Hub, we are always aiming to be on the pulse of national trends that affect business growth and productivity, such as how to access the right skills in an evolving workforce. Our Fuller Working Lives toolkit provides insights from real businesses on how they are implementing this strategy, expert advice and statistics on the economic impact this issue is having on our region. View the toolkit now and access the business support you need.