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Championing older workers

The Business Champion for Older Workers is a new Government-appointed role to push support for the over-50s in the UK labour market. The first to take the position is Dr Ros Altmann, an 'independent expert on later life issues'. But why is the role needed?

Changing demographics

The UK employment rate of the over-50s to state pension age group is around 60 per cent. It's growing but we lag behind many of our competitors who achieve rates of 70 per cent or more.

Within this group of around 2.9 million people is a 'vast, untapped talent', according to Department for Work and Pensions minister Steve Webb MP - meaning that there is plenty of potential yet to be realised.

Businesses that 'believe they can rely solely on a young workforce' will be put under pressure by Britain's changing demographics, it's argued.

In the next decade, the 16-to-49 age group will shrink by 700,000 people, while numbers aged between 50 and state pension age will swell by 3.7 million.

Changing perceptions

New research from MetLife UK suggests that perceptions may still be against this 'important section of the workforce'.

Employers think that at third of their people would struggle with their current job beyond the age of 65, it found.

And almost one in eight respondents reported that there was a negative attitude to older staff in their workplaces. More than half (54 per cent) said their company was only 'neutral' on the issue.

Baroness Greengross, chief executive of the International Longevity Centre-UK said, 'We are living longer than ever before, yet far too many people fall out of the workforce early.

'Without more older workers active in the workplace there are significant risks for UK plc that we will not have the workforce or skills we need to be a competitive nation.

'Businesses must wake up to the challenge of extending working lives.'

Some jobs may be harder to do in older age than others. But there are ways to extend someone's working life, for example by moving to flexible or part-time work, through job-sharing, changing roles or through the coaching and mentoring of younger workers.

Acas publications and services

Acas can visit your workplace and raise staff awareness on issues surrounding age, age discrimination and diversity; see Equality and diversity: how Acas can help.

Acas also offers practical training on issues surrounding Age and the workplace, Equality, diversity and the Equality Act 2010 and Flexible working.

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