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Financial stability led older workers to leave during pandemic

The majority of workers over 50 who left employment during the second wave of the pandemic were able to do so because of a comfortable financial situation, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The data (released 27 September) showed two thirds (66%) of over-50s who left the workforce owned their homes outright, creating less pressure for them to stay in work.

Over-50s who left their job since March 2020 were also more likely to be debt free (61%) compared with those who stayed in employment (42%).

The level of financial comfort increased as workers got older. Over half (55%) of workers aged 60-65 were confident their retirement finance would be sufficient, a sentiment shared by 38% of those aged 50-54.

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Luke Price, senior evidence manager at the Centre for Ageing Better, said government support would help over-50s reach required levels of financial comfort more quickly.

He told HR magazine: “The significant departure of many older workers from the labour market since the pandemic has been damaging for the economy and steps need to be urgently taken to address the continuing trend.

"For workers aged 50-54 to reach a position where they are financially comfortable to retire, in most circumstances those workers will need to be in employment and reaping the immediate and longer-term financial benefits.  

“Government can help support this goal by ensuring tailored support is in place for any 50-plus worker looking to return to work. We are pleased the government has identified a need for this, has identified it as a priority as recently as last week’s mini budget and we welcome expansion of this support across the country."

Help for workers over 50 was mentioned as part of last week's budget announcement. Jobseekers over the age of 50 will be given extra time with job centre work coaches going forward, in an attempt to help them return to the jobs market.

The data also showed adults aged 50-59 were more likely to be looking for work (14%) than those aged 60-65 (6%).

The most desirable factors when looking for paid work were flexible working hours (32%), good pay (23%), and the ability to work from home (12%).

Companies need to think strategically to help over-50s stay in employment, Price added.

He said: “Employers can help by removing the bias within their recruitment process which often causes older workers to disengage with the labour market. A savvy employer who offers employees flexible work alongside health support and reasonable adjustments will reap the benefits of higher productivity and reduced turnover that an older workforce brings. 
“The benefits to employers who offer flexible working, occupational health, reasonable adjustments and support for employee mental and physical health is made clear in the new ONS survey results highlighting their strong retention of older workers throughout the pandemic. Companies that don’t heed that advice will find that the current recruitment climate will continue to prove extremely challenging."

The ONS sampled 43,250 adults who had left or lost their job since March 2020.