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People Management | Three in five workforce leavers over 50 would consider returning, data shows

Over 65 Worker 2

Yoana Cholteeva Press Releases, Blog

​People Management article featuring comments from Mandy Watson, Director of Ambitions Personnel.

The original article can be found here:

Employers urged to tune in to the needs of different age groups when planning flexible working policies and other perks.

The majority of workers aged 50 to 65 who left employment during the pandemic would return to the workplace, especially if incentivised by favourable working arrangements, a study has found.

Research by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), which formed part of its Over 50s Lifestyle Study, polled 43,250 individuals in August 2022 to understand the motivations of those aged 50 to 65 years leaving work during the coronavirus pandemic – why they left, whether they intend to return, and what may encourage them back to work.

The findings showed that in fact, three in five (58 per cent) workers aged 50 to 65 years would consider returning to work with the most important factors when choosing a paid job being flexible working hours (32 per cent), good pay (23 per cent), and being able to work from home (12 per cent).

The data revealed that age was a major factor when considering whether to return to work, with the younger group – those aged 50 to 54 years – being more likely to consider returning (86 per cent) than those aged 55 to 59 years (65 per cent), and those 60 to 65 years (44 per cent).

Meanwhile, adults aged 50 to 59 years were also more likely to be currently looking for paid work (14 per cent), compared to just 6 per cent of adults aged 60 to 65.

Emphasising the importance of additional support as a factor in retaining workers, the study found that those who never left the workforce were more likely to have access to employer support than those who left work. Around one in five (18 per cent) said they were currently on an NHS waiting list for medical treatment, which rose to 35 per cent of those who left their previous job for a health related condition.

Exploring the reasons why people from this age bracket left employment, the study found that financial security played a major role in their decision as the majority (66 per cent) of  those aged 50 to 65 years owned their homes outright, and were more likely to be debt free (61 per cent).

In comparison, only two in five 42 per cent of those who had left their job since the pandemic and returned to work were debt free.

Pension security was another factor in taking the decision to leave, as more than half (55 per cent) of those aged 60 to 65 years were confident or very confident that their retirement provisions would meet their needs, as opposed to just two in five (38 per cent) of those aged 50 to 54 years.

However, the younger group of adults aged 50 to 59 years were more likely to report mental health reasons (8 per cent) and disability (8 per cent) as reasons for not returning to work when compared with those aged 60 to 65 years (both 3 per cent).

Commenting on the concerns associated with people over 50 leaving the workforce, Alan Price, CEO at BrightHR, said that people from this age group may well represent “a cohort of the most experienced employees whose particular skillset would be difficult to replace”. 

Price added: “This doesn’t simply refer to technical skills, but interpersonal skills and the ability to mentor other employees new to the industry. They may also be taking with them a honed understanding of the business they work for if they have been there a while, which takes several years to replace.”

Mandy Watson, managing director of Ambitions Personnel, advised that organisations can benefit from understanding the advantages of having a diverse workforce.

“Experience is one of the few qualities which is enhanced by age, and it can be important to have senior figures who can pass down their knowledge and skills to younger employees,” she said.

Proposing ways for organisations and HR teams to attract and retain employees over 50 amid the tight labour market conditions, Watson emphasised that it was vital to ensure that vacancy advertising was free from bias and done through a wide range of platforms.

She added: “Be flexible and consider the needs of individuals rather than having rigid policies. The needs and wants of people in different age groups are often very different, so be sure to cater to everyone when planning out your benefits and perks and your approach to more flexible working.”

Echoing this, Price said helping employees from this age group with benefits like caring responsibilities, both for elderly parents and grandchildren, could play a significant role in their decision to choose to return to or remain in employment.

In addition, “older employees may fear that they will face age discrimination in the workplace, so training managers on how to avoid this can also help,” he said.