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Coronavirus pandemic worsens unemployment crisis for older workers

A new report by the Resolution Foundation has found the cost of being made redundant is especially high for older workers.

After losing work, older workers take the longest, on average, to return to employment.

Six months after becoming unemployed fewer than two-thirds of those aged over 50 (62%) had found work again.

In comparison, nearly three-quarters of 16-29-year-olds and 30-49-year-olds (74% and 72% respectively) had returned to employment.

The pandemic has led to the biggest annual fall in employment for older workers since the 1980s, according to A U-Shaped Crisis.

The decline in the employment rate for the over-50s has been twice as severe as for those aged between 25 and 49 – a 1.4 percentage point decline compared with a 0.7 percentage point dip.

Agata Nowakowska, area vice president at e-learning company Skillsoft, said it is important older employees don’t leave the workforce too early.

She told HR magazine: “The ability to exercise sound social judgment, critical thinking or the ability to draw on years of previous experience and maturity remains vital in any rounded organisation.

“As the contemporary workplace continues to change, younger generations will always need the guidance and support that only maturity can bring.”

Nowakowska said with older workers most at risk of unemployment, HR teams must ensure this demographic is not forgotten about.

She said: “The challenge for employers is to make sure that everyone, regardless of gender, age or location, shares in the spoils of new technology.

“Instituting lifelong learning for employees that ensures re-skilling will prove the answer to tectonic shifts in the job market, giving older workers the opportunity to learn new skills that will increase their ability to shift into new roles.”

Sarah Loates, director at Loates HR Consultancy, said an initiative similar to the Kickstart Scheme aimed at older workers could help to support them get back into work.

Speaking to HR magazine she said: “HR teams also need to create an age positive culture, and challenge stereotypes and perceptions that older workers are less productive. This starts with educating line managers.

"Businesses could also review their recruitment and selection practices, for example, by introducing blind CVs where applicants are not required to include DOB and education details.”

Why HR should support the older employees in the workforce:

Older workers could be your biggest asset

Harnessing the benefits of older workers

Older workers’ employability is an HRD responsibility, part one