UK Equality and Human Rights Commission report seeks fundamental changes to employment policies to address challenges of ageing workforce

A new ‘Working Better’ report made by the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has just been published which includes a review, stakeholder and employer interviews and new survey findings of 1,500 people aged 50-75 years.

The EHRC proposals seek fundamental changes to employment policies to increase work opportunities for older Britons and to address the challenges of an ageing workforce. They raise the issue of mandatory retirement ages and the denial of work related insurance for people aged over 65.

The report recommends that the default retirement age should be abolished to prevent an anticipated skills shortage, the extension of the right to request flexible working to all, the overhauling of employer recruitment practices to prevent discrimination, and improved training and opportunities for development for older workers. It also discusses the implications for funding pensions and benefits related to keeping workers on beyond their retirement. One problem which may arise is that employers may not be able to find an insurer willing to provide death in service and health benefits to employees beyond the age of 65 and they may run the risk of discriminating against workers above that age if they are unable to provide them with these benefits.

This initiative coincides with the release of a new survey* carried out for the EHRC into older workers’ aspirations, the barriers they face and potential solutions to addressing those. The results show that the majority of this age group believes major changes are needed to attitudes and policies if they are to reach their employment goals. For instance, the survey found that 24% of men and 64% of women say they plan to keep working beyond the state pension age**. However, structural barriers and outdated stereotypes are forcing people out of work early. Older workers told the EHRC that flexibility in hours and locations are crucial to keeping them in the workforce longer as they aimed to balance work with their caring responsibilities and health needs. 85% of people not working and aged over the state pension age say greater availability of part-time or flexible jobs would help them gain a job.

Survey results from those aged 50-75:

•Fifty-five per cent say they are unhappy with some aspect of their working lives. •Asked about barriers to their ideal job, half say the availability of part-time or flexible work would help them. •Responsibility for children continues, with nearly a quarter (23%) of 56 to 59 year-olds and 9% of 70 to 75-year-olds still supporting their children financially. •Almost two in five men (38%) and 46% of women are not aware of the right to request flexible working available to adult carers. •People in fair and poor health or with a disability were much less satisfied with their working hours than other workers. •Among the unemployed who want to work, 37% of men and 50% of women say they need flexible arrangements to enable their transition back into work. •Three out of five older workers say they are as physically capable now to perform their jobs as they were when younger.

*A total of 1,494 men and women aged 50 to 75 across Great Britain took part in the survey.

**State pension age is currently 60 for women and 65 for men. It will rise to 65 for both men and women by 2020.

EHRC publications

‘Working Better’ research report: Older workers: employment preferences, barriers and solutions

Policy briefing: Working better – the over 50s, the new work generation

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