Number of over 50s working or available to work will grow by one million

30 August 2018

The Women and Equalities Committee recently published a report concluding that the talents of more than a million people aged over 50 who are out of work but are willing to work are being wasted because of discrimination, bias and outdated employment practices.


Government policy

The key Government policy on older workers is set out in its Fuller Working Lives strategy published in February 2017. The document was accompanied by an evidence base praised by witnesses to the Women and Equalities Committee’s inquiry as “an excellent addition to the sources of information available on this topic.”

This strategy builds on the work undertaken by Baroness Ros Altmann’s review ‘A New Vision for Older Workers’, published in March 2015, and its recommendations for Government, business and individuals to:

  • Recruit

  • Retain

  • Retrain’ older workers

'Fuller Working Lives' is structured around these ‘3 Rs’, and a key feature is that it is “employer-led”.

The Inquiry

The Women and Equalities Committee’s predecessor launched an inquiry into older people and employment in March 2017 however due to the General Election the inquiry was closed before the deadline for written evidence. The Committee in the new Parliament decided to reopen the inquiry.

The inquiry asked whether the Government’s 'Fuller Working Lives' strategy is sufficient, whether the approach taken by the Government is working and what more needs to be done. The Committee examined how questions of age diversity factor into the discussions on ‘quality’ of work being taken forward in the Taylor Review of modern working practices, and whether or not the Government’s approach addresses the different needs of women, carers, people with long-term health conditions and disabilities and black and minority ethnic (BME) groups among the older workforce.

Written evidence was received from a range of organisations and individuals and feedback was received from an outreach event from older job seekers with an array of occupational backgrounds and family circumstances.

In brief, the evidence from the Committee shows that, for older workers, there are three key issues that need significant attention:

  • Tackling age bias and discrimination, particularly in recruitment

  • Making workplaces and working practices more flexible and adaptable to the changing needs of older workers in all their diversity

  • Access to skills development, career advice and support throughout people’s lives

Central to each of these is a recognition that the traditional notion of a nine-to-five job within a linear career with distinct start and end points is no longer the norm.



The Women and Equalities Committee made a large number of recommendations to the government; the full details of which can be found in their ‘Older people and Employment’ report - to follow are just some of the key ones:

  • The Equality and Human Rights Commission should develop a clear plan to tackle age discrimination in employment, including tackling discrimination in recruitment and the recruitment industry

  • The true nature of the discrimination facing older women, older disabled people and older people from black and minority ethnic communities may not be being brought to light in case law so it is recommended that the Government commission research into the extent of this problem

  • Mandatory regulations should be introduced to require all public-sector employers, and private and voluntary sector employers with more than 250 staff, to publish the age profile of their workforce

  • Legislate now to ensure that all new jobs are advertised as flexible from day one unless the employer can demonstrate an immediate and continuing business case against doing so

  • The Civil Service and public services should immediately introduce a right to flexible working from day one for both new and existing roles, except where an immediate and continuing business case against doing so can be demonstrated

  • Put unpaid leave for working carers on a par with that for parents, and introduce a statutory right to four weeks of unpaid carer’s leave per year. The effectiveness of unpaid carer’s leave should be monitored by collecting data on take-up and the reasons for take-up

  • Introduce an additional five days of paid carer’s leave, available to all working carers regardless of employment type

  • Review the services provided by the Fit for Work scheme to ensure that it is meeting the needs of small and medium employers who may not otherwise have access to professional occupational health services

  • Government to work with Andy Briggs, the Business Champion for Older Workers, and Business in the Community to establish and promote a mentoring scheme for employers, supporting those who may otherwise lack the expertise or capacity to create age-friendly workplaces (SMEs)

  • Government to require departments to incorporate a set of age-friendly employment standards, including rights to flexible working from day one, carer’s leave and a mid-life career review, into all new policies and contracts affecting the terms and conditions of employment for public sector workers