Workingwise.co.uk’s annual survey was published last week and shows that a high number...read more
The reaction to the Budget continues to reverberate as the menopause – and the Government’s lack of response to it – also drawing attention.
The Budget fall-out continues as people come to grips with what it might mean, despite not much detailed information. We did a snap poll on our site and there was not much enthusiasm. That may not be representative as the experts greeted some of the initiatives with optimism, particularly those centred on health.
There is definitely a lot of frustration about what the barriers are to getting back to work in your 50s or 60s, with the main one being perceived ageism in the recruitment process. Person after person mentioned this and that is in keeping with our annual surveys.
I was speaking to an employer this week who does quite a bit for older workers and the first thing they mentioned when I spoke about the poll was that perception influences attitude ie that because people are perceiving there will be ageism they act accordingly in interviews. There may be something in that in that we all are influenced by ageism and can internalise those ideas, but the sheer numbers of people who say they are having trouble finding a job and who think it is in part linked to their age suggests this is a broader problem and one which employers must actively address – particularly at a time of labour shortages.
I also watched the discussion at the Women and Equalities Committee this week on the menopause. Again the issue of ageism came up – the idea that women are not of interest when they are past the age of fertility – and underlying misogynist tendencies which lead to the sidelining of issues affecting women. Speakers asked how the menopause had been ignored in the talk of getting older people back to work and cited research showing one in 10 women drops out of work due to the menopause, a figure several said is likely to be an underestimate.
The Government’s Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Mental Health and Women’s Health Strategy and for Women failed to turn up to the session, which was taken as a sign of the Government’s disinterest in the topic, having rejected or part rejected 11 of the Committee’s 12 recommendations on menopause in the workplace. This was after a previous session where Kemi Badenoch, Minister for Women and Equalities, dismissed calls for action on menopause leave and extending legal protections to menopausal women, saying a proposed pilot programme on menopause leave could be discriminatory against men and trivialising extending legal protection for menopausal women – more than half of the population – by comparing it to doing so for people with ginger hair or short people.
The people we spoke to about the Budget also highlighted that it focused a lot on getting people back to work rather than on keeping them there. Some had health issues and are worried they will need to drop out in the future. There was a proposal for a pilot occupational health scheme for SMEs in the Budget which could focus more on prevention, but health prevention has always been a so-called Cinderella issue in health because the results take time to filter through – not a popular thing if you are a politician focused on the short-term election cycle – and can be more difficult to measure. There was interest in a more locally-focused approach to helping older workers, however, based on local needs and industry. That and more promotion of flexible jobs that can be done by those with health or disability issues would really make a difference – allied to a fully functioning health and social care system and a proper safety net for those who can’t work.