Age discrimination claims have increased recently due to the lockdown. The economic downturn of the pandemic has widened existing inequalities for workers aged over 50 both in the workplace and during the recruitment process. Because of this age discrimination claims and employment tribunals have increased sharply over the last year. In 2020 there were 3668 complaints of age discrimination that made it to employment tribunals. This was an increase of 74% compared to 2112 in 2019.
The number of over-50s that are unemployed is increasing. All companies should ensure they are providing a supportive workplace for older workers. This will not only help to avoid an unemployment crisis but drive a productive workplace.
Furlough and Redundancies
Workers aged 50 and over made up more than a quarter of those furloughed during the pandemic. Around 1 million over 50s are still furloughed. With new variants of Covid19 circulating there is speculation that not all social distancing will be dropped on June 21st, sparking concern for a new wave of redundancies.
The highest increase in redundancy within the pandemic are those who are over 50. Worryingly it has doubled from 4.3% to 9.7% per 1000. Redundancies at this age can lead to long periods of unemployment and interfere with retirement plans. Sadly, in addition, 3 in 10 over 50s furloughed still believe that there is a 50% or higher chance that they will lose their job.
Over 50s have been hit the hardest with unemployment during Covid19. Since the mid-1990s employment rates for over 50s had been climbing consistently, with 4 million more workers aged 50 and over than what there was in 2000. However, Covid19 has reversed this impressive growth and caused the biggest annual employment fall in 40 years. It was almost double the drop seen among those aged 25-49. Unemployment among over-50s reached 426,000 in the final three months of 2020, this was a 48% increase on the previous year.
Data has shown that those who fall out of the workforce at this age are twice as likely to become long-term employed. If over 50s did return, they took the longest to return to work after a period of unemployment. In addition to this, they found it even more difficult to find work that matched their previous salaries and skill levels. These are all massive disadvantages to this age group.
Percentages of those returning to work after 6 months of unemployment:
- 62% of those aged over 50
- 72% of those aged 30-49
- 74% of 16-29
It is not all plain sailing for those who have managed to return. Their hourly earnings have dropped by an average of 9.5% compared to their previous earnings. This is a large percentage, especially when comparing to only 4% for 25-49.
Retirement plans have also been thrown up in the air as people are having to work for longer to make up for the impacts. People have experienced a big fall in earnings, so, therefore, cannot retire at the time they had once planned. 1 in 8 workers aged over 50 has now changed their retirement plans due to the pandemic, with 8% planning to retire later than originally planned.
Action to tackle unemployment amongst over 50s
Without intervention, we are likely to face an unemployment crisis amongst older workers. This could push people into poverty during their retirement. There are hopes that there will be Government support to help this age group get back into work. These include:
- Retraining opportunities for different sectors
- Adequate support to find new jobs
- Greater rights to flexible working
In addition, the TUC is calling for an immediate programme to enable older workers to get back into work. They are also requesting early access to state pensions for those who are unable to get back into the competitive workforce.
Age diversity in the workplace
Employment tribunal cases are on the rise due to age discrimination in the workplace. It is important for employers to ensure that they are recruiting the person who is the best fit for the job, regardless of age. Age should not be a deciding factor for redundancies or recruitment.
Many employers forget that age is a component of diversity within a workforce. When considering how to improve the diversity of your workforce, employers should consider age. Companies would be wasting the skills and experience of older workers by not employing or under-employing them. This is especially so as we come out of lockdown.
It is important to understand and support the needs of older employees. This may include menopause support, helping to develop their career, ensuring recruitment policies are fair and not biased against other candidates. By implementing these things employers will create an inclusive culture. Employees will feel confident that their age will not be a barrier to their success.
How can oneHR help?
Do you know how diverse your workforce is? With our newly released feature ‘Data Extracts’ you can now get valuable insights into your company, such as age diversity. Run reports based on any/all fields and data held against your employees on the system. You can then use this information to evaluate the age diversity of your company and take action if necessary.
If you have any further questions or queries about the content above or would like to request a demo for oneHR, please don’t hesitate to contact the oneHR team today.
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