The trend for hiring older people

05 June 2014

Careers at McCarthy & Stone

It seems the acceptance of older people within the workplace is rising, with employers increasingly preferring older 'more experienced' employees than younger staff.

Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have highlighted the ‘greying’ of the workplace, revealing that of the 29.76 million people in employment during the last financial year (April 2012 - 2013), more than one million were over the age of 65.

That figure is up 96,000 on the previous year and it is the first time employment of this age group has exceeded one million - good news if you're planning to top up your pension fund and continue working well into your 60s.

Jim Hillage, director of research at the Institute for Employment Studies has said that this rise in employment for the over-65s was significant.

"While this reflects a welcome willingness among employers to recruit and retain experienced people, it may also reflect the need that some older people have to top up inadequate pension arrangements," he said.

In the UK, the government has recommended extending the age of retirement to 67, and many countries in the rest of Europe are contemplating similar legislation. Chancellor George Osborne has said that the state pension age will start rising to 67 for both men and women in 2026 and by the end of 2028, it will be the qualifying pension age for everyone.

While that may seem like bad news for some, last year's figures from the ONS show it's not all doom and gloom for the over 60s. In fact, many employers prefer to recruit from the older generation. A case in point is 63-year-old entrepreneur Richard Branson, who recently revealed he would be happy to work well into his 90s and said successful entrepreneurs and managers were taking a closer look at the over 60s market.

Branson, who in 2012 attempted to become the oldest person to kite-surf across the English Channel, said that while it was true that some employers had negative preconceptions about hiring older workers, they were only doing themselves a disservice. "These days, people are living much longer, active lives - so retiring at a young age is no longer necessary," he said. "If a person looks after himself with regular exercise and a good diet, there is no reason why he should not keep going well past 60.

"I plan to work until I feel I'm no longer making a real contribution to Virgin. I see a good 30 years of work ahead. It's true that at 60 there are some tasks that suit me better than others, but I see few real limitations in my current role."

Branson has highlighted a number of real advantages to hiring older employees:

  • Older workers may lower time-keeping and absentee issues
  • They generally have higher levels of commitment to their jobs and loyalty to their employers
  • Companies, particularly public facing businesses, have a responsibility to understand a diverse range of ages, thus employing older people means they can truly understand that market

But how can these advantages be implemented into the modern day work place, to not only benefit the worker but the employer also? Branson suggests, "One answer is to become more accommodating in work arrangements. Offering part- time jobs, job shares, flexi-time and full-time jobs with longer holidays may attract older workers. This would enable everyone - not just older employees - to strike a better work-life balance and allow companies to retain their skills and experience."

So what jobs are available for the over 60s? The Office for National Statistics has identified a number of roles within which the older generation is more prevalent including management (usually those who have worked their way up a company), property managers, farmers and taxi drivers – the second most common work for men over the age of 65. 

The NHS is Europe's biggest employer, and it makes extensive use of older workers. Last year, in England there were 1,453 GPs, 1,207 hospital doctors and 14,816 nurses and support staff still practising past their 65th birthday!

Employing older people in the retail industry has also been a major trend in recent years with some employers such as B&Q specifically targeting this market. Celebrating the 95th birthday of one staff member, Sydney Prior, the hardware store said in a statement: "The older workers employed in our stores, like Syd, have greater life experience and a true willingness to work, which means they can pass on their knowledge and skills to customers and younger members of staff.”

Here at McCarthy & Stone 10% of the workforce is over the age old 61 years of age. Take a look at our latest careers here.

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