The year began with a strong policy focus on getting older people back to work, particularly those with health problems.
In a year which saw a lot of policy announcements related to getting older people back to work, Labour announced plans to modernise job centres, reform employment support services to ensure support is tailored to older workers and change the social security system to help people overcome barriers to work.
Meanwhile, research by the Chartered Management Institute found employers are significantly less open to hiring older workers than bringing in younger talent. A survey by Bubble found one in four grandparents are retiring early to help their children with childcare.
The number of over 50s who are not working due to early retirement or sickness fell on the last quarter as people returned to work amid the cost of living crisis, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.
Amid ongoing calls to reform the apprenticeship levy, the Government launched a new pilot of intensive Job Centre sessions for people who have been on Universal Credit for 13 weeks.
Meanwhile, a report by LCP said the Government should focus more on addressing long-term sickness and NHS waiting lists to bring down economic inactivity levels than getting people out of retirement. And a My Pension Expert survey found over a quarter of over-55s believe they will still be working in their 70s, with the majority lacking a financial plan for retirement.
Seventy per cent of carers told insurance firm Surewise that they are not confident they will make it financially through the next year.
Labour announced plans to require large firms to publish and implement Menopause Action Plans detailing how they are supporting women with menopause at work.
The Chancellor used his Budget to announce a package of measures, including returnerships, an increase in midlife MOTs for those on Universal Credit and changes to pension taxes which he said would help over 50s back to work or stop them from dropping out.
He mentioned a new ‘Returnerships’ apprenticeship targeted at the over 50s. Policy experts said this seemed more about rebranding existing programmes and some additional investment. The Chancellor also said that the digital midlife MOT tool would be enhanced and that there would be an expansion of the Government’s in-person midlife MOTs for Universal Credit claimants who are over 50.
Meanwhile, the CBI launched a new Health and Work Taskforce to recommend and implement near-term actions which will lead to long-term health benefits.
March also saw the Government appoint a menopause employment champion, but Kemi Badenoch, the minister for women and equalities, defended the Government’s rejection of a recommendation to consider the menopause a protected characteristic in law.
Amid some evidence that some people classed as economically inactive are returning to work, the TUC said over 50s in working class professions on low incomes are much more likely to be forced out by long-term sickness than higher earners. Another report from Phoenix Insights showed the average wealth for 50-64 year olds who are economically inactive due to ill health is just £57,000, less than 5% the average wealth of those who chose to retire early (£1.24 million).
In other news, a study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies showed the private pension gap narrowed considerably less than the state pension gap in the last decades, falling from nearly 60% for women born in the late 1930s to around 45% for those born in the early 1950s. And research from the University of Sheffield found that most employers are not engaged or invested enough in helping to extend older workers’ working lives, with SMEs most likely not to be taking action. Another report from the university found anti-age discrimination policies are failing to help those who need help. Another report found growing interest in semi-retirement.
Nearly half (48%) self-employed workers are aged 50 or older – the highest proportion in the past decade, according to analysis from Rest Less.
Meanwhile, the WASPI campaign for women born in the 1950s and affected by pension age changes is claiming victory after reaching a settlement with the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman over stage two of their compensation claim.
A report by the IPPR think tank found workers who have developed health conditions in recent years have seen their annual earnings drop by up to £1,700 on average while a study by Zurich UK said a lack of flexible job opportunities is the main obstacle preventing over 50s from staying in the workforce longer.