Workingwise.co.uk’s annual survey was published last week and shows that a high number...read more
workingwise.co.uk has been hearing from older workers about their views on the Budget and many felt there was nothing in it for them.
Tackling workplace ageism and promoting more flexible jobs are vital to improving the lot of older workers, and would be much more effective ways of helping them than the policies put forward in the Budget, according to a qualitative workingwise.co.uk survey.
While experts have given a mixed reaction to the Budget provisions for older workers, with cautious support for health-related programmes, the vast majority of those who took part in the workingwise.co.uk survey were negative about the Budget and what it would do for them.
Many said there was little point in talking about getting people back to work if there was no focus on tackling ageism in the recruitment process. One person said: “If you lose your job after 55 there is little hope in most professions that you will ever work again yet you hear the government talking about wanting older workers back. As you can guess I have lost my job through a restructure and I cannot prove ageism but I think I suffered it and am continuing to suffer it as jobs I know I can do are not hiring me. I suspect they are favouring younger people, but it is difficult to prove.”
Another stated: “They don’t get that employers simply will not consider older workers. In a choice between me and a 40 year old, the 40 year old will win.” One 54 year old had tried to convince two leading broadcasters to run apprenticeship programmes for older people, but had been told they were only available for younger people. “Where’s age equality as part of EDI policy in employer strategy?” they asked.
Another person suggested companies’ age profiles should be monitored and action taken to reduce age discrimination given “most recruitment agencies are not putting forward anyone over 45”.
Flexible working was another big issue that many mentioned. One person said they would like to see “flexibility in hours but also in expectations as regards to productivity compared with younger workers”.
There was little support for the tightening of benefits sanctions announced by the Chancellor, worry among those with health conditions who felt they might not be able to stay in work and a feeling that it was more about helping the better off. A 55-year-old woman who describes herself as fitter than most people half her age and not intending to retire, said: “I think the Government is clueless and I’m not rich enough to be in the boys club.”
One person who supported more flexible working and less ageist recruitment processes stated that the Budget seemed to be “the same initiatives in 2012 [which] did not work then”, that is, “Job Centre Plus draconian punitive compliance [which] offers no real help”. He wanted more focus on local solutions.
A female carer said: “The idea of penalising people doing lower hours with benefit sanctions seems utterly cruel and thoughtless. What about carers like me? I cannot work on top of caring for family members. It seems very harsh to put pressure on part-time flexible workers to do more without understanding their situations. It is a budget for the already rich ones, not those who are poor and struggling already. Give us a break for a change! Tax those who can afford to pay more and stop the post war welfare state from being totally eroded. Keep the ideals of helping people who are unemployable, sick or otherwise incapable of full-time work.”
Others surveyed called for more investment in the NHS to reduce waiting lists and more focus on upskilling. The Budget does include a returnership policy for those who have dropped out of the workforce which experts say seems to be a rebundling of existing skills programmes with some extra investment.
Workingwise.co.uk has also spoken to others who have been vocal about the Budget on the website.
One 55-year-old woman with a degenerative spinal condition feels the Budget has missed those people “in the middle” who are struggling to stay in work. She says a midlife MOT could help her to stay in work, but that most of the Budget is aimed at those who are out of work. “I feel that I almost need to leave to get proper support,” she says.
She adds: “The money lost by scrapping the pension lifetime limits would be better invested in occupational health support and preventing ill health where possible through workplace screening, subsidised gym membership and healthy meals at work. Provision of faster access to healthcare to get people back to work would be a controversial move, but would keep older and disabled workers at work instead of off sick. If we can incentivise keeping the richest workers at work are we saying that the lowest and middle earners don’t matter?”
And a man who has vascular disease in both legs and difficulty with walking says he cannot change jobs. When he mentioned his condition to prospective employers initially he didn’t hear back from them so he now doesn’t mention it. His legs are not bad enough for him to be classed as disabled – he can walk 100 – 200 metres before his leg seizes up, causing him extreme agony. He was told that he was fit to work picking in a warehouse and only when he broke down in tears was he able to get signed off sick. He says: “I’d love find a job I could do and have looked at retraining but my school grades aren’t good enough. The Budget just feels like the Government doing more box ticking but not doing anything meaningful.”