Employers have “got lazy” when it comes to advertising vacancies and should focus efforts locally to attract older workers, Webb explained.
She was speaking at a Business in the Community (BITC) event on age diversity.
Webb said employers rely too much on online advertising, which might exclude older jobseekers who are less comfortable job hunting online. She said The Co-operative Group recruited people to work in its shops “at local level”, helping to attract older applicants.
“Don’t lose that local essence, it might be part of the solution,” she said.
According to BITC’s Missing Millions report, one million older people have been forced out of work before retirement age. It also flags up that there are 1.1 million in the UK working beyond state pension age, who are ignored in policy making.
Webb said changing retail business models that require shops to stay open longer could encourage flexible working, helping older people who don’t want to work full-time.
“The concept of ‘full-time’ has changed in our industry,” she said. “A lot of our senior people are part-time or job share. You often get more than you pay for because of their loyalty and discretionary effort.”
BITC Age at Work director Rachael Saunders said employers need to be more open to less traditional career paths. “We need to get rid of this ‘up or out’ mentality,” she said. “You might be missing out on really able people who need to plateau or dial down for a while.”
She added that half of working people aged over 50 suffer from chronic health conditions, and called for conditions associated with the menopause to be talked about more openly. “One of the biggest drivers out of work for older people is health,” she said.
BITC executive director David Pemberton said a contributing factor is “discrimination and stereotyping”. He added that due to changing demographics age discrimination is becoming “more visible and less tolerable”.