Fuller Working Lives – a challenge or an opportunity for British business?

By Genevieve Bach, CIPD Public Affairs Manager, @gen_bach


Today (13 June) saw the launch of the Government’s Fuller Working Lives strategy – a framework for action that encourages businesses to realise the benefits of embracing older workers and help them to remain in the labour market.


This strategy comes at an appropriate time.  There are more over-50s in employment now than ever before (8.9 million, compared to 7.2 million ten years ago).  CIPD research shows that many older people are choosing to work longer for financial reasons, but that many also value the personal fulfilment and social interaction that work provides.  On the other hand, there is still a problem with early exit from the labour market, with over half of men and women having stopped working before they reach the State Pension Age.  This poses a challenge to businesses, whom Pensions Minister Steve Webb is right to call upon to recognise the importance of older workers and adapt their recruitment and retention strategies accordingly.


The CIPD has long made the case for the importance of older workers to businesses and society.  Our research shows that employers are overwhelmingly positive about the benefits older workers bring to their organisation, valuing their skills, knowledge and experience.  Long before the removal of the Default Retirement Age (DRA), many employers removed age from their application forms, with many more offering flexible working and retirement opportunities, which can be particularly attractive to older workers, long before the extension of the right to request that will come into effect this month. 


But it’s not just a case of “so far, so good” – simply retaining older workers will not be enough to capture the talent and skills employers will need for sustained economic success.  Older workers, like everyone else, need to be managed, trained and developed properly if they are to be motivated to stay with an employer and be as productive as possible – and this is where more action is needed to build on the success that has been achieved so far.  Many organisations provide training for all employees, regardless of age, but this is not always enough.  Older workers can “de-select” themselves from training and development, so there is a case for employers approaching their older workers more directly when relevant opportunities arise, explaining how it may benefit them and their performance.


Employers will also have to do even more to ensure they have age-inclusive recruitment practices, boost flexible working practices, and focus on extending inclusive provisions to safeguard the health and wellbeing of all employees into old age, to ensure employers, older workers, our economy and wider society benefit from us all living and working longer. 


*CIPD has worked with the Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives to produce guidance on Managing a healthy ageing workforce.





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