Greg McCracken: Employers too eager to throw older workers on scrapheap

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A poll by Age Scotland partner Age UK has revealed nearly a quarter of people in their early 50s are worried they will be forced to leave their homes due to being unable to make their mortgage or rent payments.

The subjects of the poll are a demographic traditionally expected to be at the peak of their earning power. Instead, fewer than two-fifths of those aged 50 plus (38 per cent) were positive about the future.

A key concern for many is keeping or finding a job. Nearly half of all unemployed men and women aged between 50 and 64 have been out of work for more than a year. Meanwhile, research shows it is harder for over-50s to get back into the workplace than for any other age group. Similarly, they are more likely to be made redundant than their younger counterparts.

With the state pension age increasing, there is an expectation that people will need to work for longer. However, this poll suggests people who are approaching later life – still with much to contribute – are anxious they will be the first to go should employers downsize.

If this is the challenge, we need to ensure that organisations value older employees and seek to retain their skills and experience. Recruiting for new posts should be an opportunity to take on older workers. In fact, we know that many employers say what they value most about older employees is their ability to mentor younger colleagues. With that in mind, schemes which encourage such relationships could be put in place in order that both generations reap the benefits.

Furthermore, whether we are employers or employees, we should regard the potential of older people, and our ageing society more generally, as a positive resource. We would do well to develop more inclusive workplaces, employment practices and opportunities which support older people. After all, wouldn’t we expect the same for ourselves when we reach that stage in life?

Greg McCracken is policy officer with Age Scotland