With the publication today of a new government report on helping older workers remain in employment, a leading academic has warned that there is still much to be done to get businesses onboard with an ageing workforce. Dr Matt Flynn, Director of the Centre for Research into the Older Workforce at Newcastle University, has welcomed Dr Altmann’s report but says that the government needs to go further to end age discrimination and recognise the economic contribution older workers make.
Dr Flynn said:
“The government, unions and business groups must work together to put in place clear career pathways for older workers – especially those in physically demanding work – helping them transition into sustainable jobs that meet their financial and health needs, whilst ensuring that their value as mentors and teachers to the younger generation is fully appreciated.
“This is already being done to great effect in large public sector organisations like the NHS, but we need more proactive measures from policymakers and Big Business to create the markets for the invaluable skills and expertise older people can offer.”
The report, A new vision for older workers: retain, retrain, recruit, has been written by Dr Ros Altmann CBE, the government-appointed Business Champion for Older Workers. The report argues that extending working lives could add £55 billion a year to the UK economy – equivalent to 1% of annual GDP. Dr Flynn points out that older workers not only provide a substantial economic contribution to UK GDP and their own firms, but also play a critical role in training younger workers. He adds:
“In many firms now, more experienced workers play a critical role in passing on not just technical skills to the younger generation, but also the tacit organisational knowledge that businesses need to retain their competitive advantage.
“Age discrimination in the workplace is still a huge problem and Altmann’s call for stiffer penalties for rule-breakers make sense. However, there’s still work to be done to promote the business case for employers to retain their older workers. This is particularly true for small business owners, who don’t think they have the time or resources to consider the cost of discriminatory practices. But when you look at the cost of lost talent and knowledge once these older workers are shoved out, it’s clear that more incentives and greater support needs to be put in place to make this business case crystal clear.”
Dr Flynn has written reports for the NHS, TUC and BIS Foresight Future project on the implications of an ageing workforce. A guide to SMEs on employing older workers, authored by Dr Flynn and entitled Managing healthy ageing workforces, will be published later this month.