There have been a few stories in the media recently highlighting some of the employment issues faced by older people. The first concerns the British chief executive of Danish toy giant Lego, 61-year-old Bali Padda, who was replaced in the role after just eight months. Lego said the move was not down to his performance but because it was understood he would only do the job for a few years at most because of his age. He was replaced by a 51-year-old. The second story concerns comedian Jason Manford, who took to social media to find employment for his father, who had lost his job at a crown court.
Mr Manford said his father could not even find work “cleaning floors” at a supermarket.

Here we have two very different people from very different walks of life and at very different levels of employment both facing issues because of their age. We asked our Divisional Head. Phil Pitman, his opinion on these stories and how this reflects on older people in the wider workforce:

'It is a sad indictment on the attitudes some employers have towards older people in the workplace. It also makes little economic sense, as older people often have skills and experience built up over many years that can be a huge asset to an organisation. It is also untenable; with people living longer and the state pension age set to rise over the coming years, our outlooks on older workers are going to have to change. In fact it is estimated that by mid-2030s people aged 50 and over will comprise more than half of the UK adult population.

As recruiters, we understand the value of older people in the workplace and would never turn someone away or refuse to place them because of their age. Fortunately, at Yolk we are lucky enough to work with many open-minded employers and regularly manage to place candidates in their sixties in a variety of roles across a range of sectors.

In engineering, one of the sectors I work in, it seems firms are increasingly realising the value of hiring older employees. They will weigh up candidates of different ages applying for the same role and will often take the view that the person with 30 plus years of skills and experience in the sector is going to be of more benefit to their business.

There are some promising signs that things are starting to change, with the government and employers acknowledging that there is an issue. Earlier this year the UK Government launched a new strategy calling on employers to boost the number of older workers and ensure they are not “writing people off” when they reach a certain age. As part of the Fuller Working Lives strategy, ministers and business leaders set out the social and health benefits of working longer. The strategy said businesses need to ‘retain, retrain and recruit’ older workers, and outlined how a coalition of jobcentres and businesses can combine to support older workers to continue in their careers or take a new direction.

This is a good start, but more employers need to acknowledge the value of employing older workers and be more open-minded when it comes to recruitment. Until then people like Bali Padda and Jason Manford’s father will continue to struggle in an employment market that fails to realise their worth.'

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