‘30% of older workers don’t have enough income to cover basic living costs’

A new survey for National Older Workers Week finds 46% of older workers will have to change their retirement plans and work longer due to cost of living pressures.

A worried pensioner with her hands to her face


Almost one-third (30%) of older workers no longer have enough income to cover basic living costs, leaving one in 10 older workers no choice but to unretire and return to work to make ends meet, according to a survey from workingwise.co.uk.

The survey of over 2,000 older workers, sponsored by Santander Consumer Finance, shows the impact of the ever-growing cost of living crisis on older workers today, with 46% of older workers having to change their retirement plans to fund ever-spiralling bills. In addition to the 10% of workers who have come out of retirement, a further 26% of those who have retired said they may need to return or could be tempted back.

If they were afforded a choice, 66% of older workers said they would like to slow down and reduce their hours, but 41% just can’t afford to. If it were a viable option, almost two-thirds (63%) of older workers admitted that they would like to take early retirement. For 48% of workers, this is due to job dissatisfaction, and for 34%, it is for health issues. A further 13% would welcome early retirement due to caring responsibilities. Over half (51%) admitted they would like to change careers.

The pandemic has played a clear role in the health decline of many older workers. Over a third (34%) say their physical health has deteriorated over the course of the pandemic. 21% say this is due to Covid itself, while 24% say it is due to NHS backlogs. 44% said their mental health has deteriorated.

Looking at how we can increase the satisfaction of older workers, a significant 62% felt that greater flexible working would help them to stay at their job for longer. For 51%, they need to feel more valued, but 43% need to get a higher salary to make them stay. Other things that are important to older workers are computer skills, bereavement support, and fewer assumptions that older workers are all in senior roles, which can make it more difficult for older workers to get jobs.

Mandy Garner, spokesperson for workingwise.co.uk, comments, “For many older workers, they are stuck between a rock and a hard place, unable to retire but unable to pay the bills in their current roles. If we want to engage older workers and encourage them to stay in or return to the workplace, we need to understand their needs; flexible working is crucial, largely owing to health issues and caring responsibilities. We need to appreciate older workers, show them we value them and create a working environment that enables them to thrive and keep growing. Otherwise they will jump ship.”

However, changing careers isn’t always straightforward for older workers. Of those who have moved jobs in the last five years, for 11%, it took between 3-6 months to find a new role; for 7%, it took 6-12 months; and for 8% of all older workers, it took over a year. Over a third (37%) of those who found it challenging to find a new job said age played a part.

45% of those who had encountered ageism in the recruitment process said they altered or left out their age on their CV to get around ageism. Of those who have experienced ageism, 54% said they encountered it in the application process, 30% in job adverts and 33% at the interview stage.

Garner stated: “We need to tackle ageism head-on. Starting with job adverts – which is preventing many talented older workers from even applying in the first place. We need to arm interviewees and recruiters with the knowledge to prevent ageism in the hiring process and to embrace older workers into the team.”

The survey results will be discussed during the second National Older Workers Week, sponsored by Phoenix Group, which runs from 21st to 25th.

Catherine Foot, Director of longevity think tank Phoenix Insights, said: “With a third of the workforce already over 50 and this proportion set to continue to grow, it’s crucial that businesses are tackling age discrimination and providing the necessary support to enable employees to stay in work as long as they need to. Recruitment, development, reskilling and retention of older workers, along with policies aimed to support flexible working, are vital in achieving this. There is much more that needs to be done by employers and the government to reimagine the workplace as people live and work for longer and we’d encourage all employers to consider initiatives that can really make a difference.”

A toolkit for employers outlining best practice when it comes to older workers will be launched at National Older Workers Week.

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