The last part of the year saw Government plans on getting people on sickness or disability benefits back to work fleshed out, calls for more joined-up thinking to address greater longevity and the third National Older Workers Week.
The Government announced a consultation on proposed changes to the controversial Work Capability Assessment, including what work might be possible in the light of advances in flexible working, as part of its moves to reduce the number of people on sickness and disability benefits.
In the Spring Budget, the Chancellor announced a series of changes to help get those with long-term health conditions and disabilities back to work, including changes to the Work Capability Assessment or fit for work test. This includes a review of the categories used to determine what activity people can do and how that affects their ability to work. These inform assessors’ decisions on what additional financial support people can receive through their benefits and if claimants need to do anything to prepare themselves for work.
Age Scotland said there has been a sharp increase in the number of older people feeling that life is getting worse and that they aren’t valued by society. The charity’s 2023 Big Survey identified that two thirds of people over the age of 50 don’t feel valued by society, up from 51% in 2021 to 66%, and more than half (56%) felt life in Scotland was getting worse for older people, up from 34% in 2021.
Meanwhile, a Demos and Anchor report found that over two thirds of retirees would resent having to go back to work and called for early intervention to stop older workers leaving the workforce rather than trying to get those who have left to return.
In other news, a poll by Legal & General found over 40% of retirees, especially those who have taken early retirement, have ended up needing more money than they planned. And a paper by the International Longevity Centre found one in 10 people aged between 50 and state pension age don’t work but want to. A Phoenix Insights report on the Midlife MOT called for more of them and more to be in person. And research shows the number of older workers working part time is rising.
In the month a new guide for SMEs on the menopause was published, a survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found over a quarter of middle-aged women workers who have experienced menopause symptoms say that menopause has had a negative impact on their career progression.
Meanwhile, a Health Foundation report found increasing the State Pension age in the UK is likely to leave thousands at risk of falling into or living in poverty for longer and a Sunlife report estimated almost seven million people over 50 have no private pension, putting them at risk of retirement poverty.
And a Legal & General Investment Management report found people from ethnic minorities are nearly twice as likely to be cutting back on their pension payments due to the cost of living crisis than their white British counterparts.
This month saw the third National Older Workers Week, hosted by workingwise.co.uk and sponsored by Phoenix Group, Outcomes First Group and David Lloyd Clubs, a week of advice, support and best practice sharing in multigenerational working. The Week saw the launch of the results of workingwise.co.uk’s annual survey which covers a wide range of issues and showed a huge appetite for learning new things and much perceived ageism in the recruitment process [57% said they have encountered ageism in the recruitment process]. A large number said they wanted to take early retirement, mainly due to health reasons and many had had to reduce their hours or stop working due to delays in accessing health treatment. 68% said they would like to retire early, but 69% who would like to take early retirement said they can’t afford to. For 38% this was due to health reasons; for 26%, however, dissatisfaction with their job was the main reason. The same percentage – 26% – wanted to leave work early due to their caring responsibilities.
The Government launched its new WorkWell service which aims to support around 60,000 long-term sick or disabled people to start, stay and succeed in work as part of its £2.5 billion Back to Work Plan. The service, announced in the Budget, will be rolled out in around 15 areas and aims to support people at risk of falling into long-term unemployment due to sickness or disability, through integrated work and health support. The Government also announced additional investment in four programmes to help those with mental or physical health conditions get back to work. The Government also announced the doubling of its 50PLUS work champions who aim to help over 50s get into work by promoting the benefits of hiring older workers to employers.
A study by Prudential found 43 per cent of self employed people don’t have a pension, compared to four per cent of those in employment, and 36 per cent say they can’t afford to save for their retirement. Analysis by Rest Less estimates that people aged over 50 now account for almost half the UK’s self-employed.
In the month that WMPeople.co.uk published the shortlist for its Top Employer Awards, a report from the International Longevity Centre called for bold action to capitalise on our greater longevity after years of procrastination and for a Parliamentary Demographic Change Select Committee to be set up to audit the government’s progress.
The report also called for the appointment of a cross-governmental inter-ministerial group focused on future generations, led by a cabinet minister, that reports regularly to Parliament. Its remit would be “to consider demographic change, the implications of technological change and environmental sustainability, over a long-term horizon”.
Meanwhile, a report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies said scrapping the triple lock pension and linking future state pension increases to earnings would save taxpayers billions of pounds as the population ages.
In other news, a report from the union Unite found 83 per cent of women experiencing the menopause do not have access to support within Britain’s workplaces. And a leading law firm wrote to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions calling for mediation talks on compensation for women born in the 1950s who have been affected by the decision to equalise the state pension age for men and women.