Britain’s over 50s need flexibility to boost stagnant workforce


BY: SLVR

CityAm’s Ben Cope says that the over 50s aren’t staying out of work because they’re sick – it’s because they’re rich.

Britain’s economy is being held back by a stagnant workforce, with 270,000 economically inactive people over the age of 50. To tackle this issue, the government needs to address the lack of flexibility in the workplace, writes Ben Cope. Rather than forcing older workers to start a job before making a request for flexible working arrangements, Cope suggests that companies should be required to disclose flexible working options upfront in job adverts.

Rather than forcing older workers to start a job before making a request for flexible working arrangements, companies should be required to disclose flexible working options upfront in job adverts.

This is crucial because fewer over 50s are working now than before the pandemic, and this is unique to Britain. The decrease in the workforce reduces the tax base and makes it harder for companies to fill vacancies. France, Germany, and the United States have all recovered from their initial unemployment shocks following the pandemic, but this has not been the case for Britain.

The government has recognized the importance of the issue and is expected to introduce several policy proposals in the upcoming budget. However, Cope argues that the centrepiece of this policy package – annual health checks for older workers – misses the cause of the problem. Research shows that the majority of the rise in economic inactivity among the over 50s has come from those who were not in work anyway. Instead, increasing economic inactivity has been caused by the “Great Resignation”, where wealthier workers decided to retire early.

To tackle this, Cope suggests creating an environment where it is easier for older workers to get a job they want through flexibility. Reports show that older workers value flexibility more than any other age group. While the government has lent its support to the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill, which includes several provisions to make flexible work more accessible, it does not go far enough. Cope argues that companies should be required to disclose flexible working options upfront in job adverts to attract older workers who don’t need the money. This policy would require foresight from employers to think about flexible working options for every vacancy, but doing so will unlock a pool of untapped talent.

Read more at CityAM.

 

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