What can you do if you are pushed into redundancy or early retirement?

Coach Judith Wardell has seen a rising number of people who have been forced into early retirement or redundancy as a result of Covid-19. She offers some advice and suggestions on ways forward.



In the second part of workingwise.co.uk’s interview with coach Judith Wardell, founder of Time of Your Life, we ask her about what can be done to help older workers who are pushed into redundancy or early retirement.

workingwise.co.uk: How do you see older workers being impacted by the experience of Covid 19 and the current economic downturn?

Judith Wardell: Now that the furlough scheme is coming to an end, we can see that employers are making difficult decisions about restructuring and cutting jobs. I see a worrying trend that more and more over 50s are being asked to take voluntary redundancy or ‘early retirement’ packages to protect the jobs of younger people. Even if this is not explicit, older workers feel a pressure to leave and find it hard to say no to the financial incentives.

Employers risk losing the benefits of an age diverse workforce and throwing away the valuable skills and organisational knowledge that older workers possess.

The individuals I speak to are often not ready for retirement and worry that their pension income may not be enough to sustain increasing longer lives. Research has repeatedly shown that older workers find it harder to get back into employment. I see that many people just accept that they will face age discrimination in the labour market.

There seems to be an increasing trend for professionals to look to consultancy or freelance careers as a way of continuing to work in a more flexible way. My worry that this option has not always been fully explored and that people don’t appreciate how difficult it is to find and maintain clients in a tough economic market.

How do you help them to work their way through from thinking about change to actually doing it, particularly in a more competitive jobs market?

Judith Wardell: I am running some free Life after Lockdown seminars which are designed to dispel the myths around ageing and make people feel positive and strong enough to challenge ageism in the jobs market. I share the principles of the Time of your life programme and the importance of getting to know yourself well. Recognising your skills and how they can be used in different ways. Understanding your motivations and sense of purpose which is key to your happiness and wellbeing.

I believe that this is the most important step in making change happen. If you know what you want to do and why, then you will be motivated to get started and your clarity of vision will sustain you through the knockbacks.

Making change actually happen is more of a personal process and benefits from coaching and tailored support. Everyone has different needs and faces different hurdles so you need an approach that works for you. This is why I developed my Time of your life programme. I provide a practical road map together with expert mentoring and guidance.

Do you think there is now more need than ever for employers and Government to consider support for older workers, given the fact they and younger workers seem to be most affected by Covid-19? If so, what form should this take?

Judith Wardell: We are facing a huge shift in the way we work and potentially the worst economic recession for many years. Support from the government is essential and there has been great financial support through the furlough scheme.

However, I am disappointed that the efforts on getting people back into work have so far been focussed on young people. Older people need to work for financial reasons and have valuable skills that will help the economy regenerate. Many older people have worked in one job or sector for many years and struggle to identify how they can transfer their skills or learn new ones. They face unconscious bias and sometimes conscious discrimination in recruitment processes and this has been exacerbated by the way older people have been portrayed during the pandemic. They will find it difficult to return to the labour market. I would like to see more emphasis on career guidance, skills development and raising self-awareness and self-esteem for all job seekers.

From an employer’s perspective, I see an opportunity to redesign work in innovative ways that improve efficiency and create good healthy work for employees of all ages. We have proved that work can be done in many different ways and broken down traditional barriers.

Now it is time to listen and learn from the experiences of employees. I would like to see employers helping people to understand themselves better and use what they have learned from lockdown to co-design new job roles and ways of working. It’s an opportunity for employers to be creative.

Do you feel more support needs to be given to those who are pushed into early retirement?

Judith Wardell: Absolutely! Mid and later life transitions are difficult to navigate. Retirement impacts on your whole life; your financial situation, self esteem and identity, your relationships. Without a plan, retirement can be bad for your physical and mental health. People need help to find a new sense of purpose and ways of connecting with the world. Often people see this an opportunity to reinvent themselves rather than stopping work so a traditional pre-retirement course does not work.

I would like to see all older workers who are at risk of redundancy have access to a midlife MOT programme. To have the time and tools to be able to make their own informed decisions about what is right for them; to take redundancy or retirement or to apply for alternative roles.

Employers should not be pushing people into feeling that they need to retire early to make way for younger workers. This is just another form of age discrimination which could have negative long term effects for organisations and individuals.

*Are you facing unplanned early retirement or redundancy? Working Wise and Time of your life are working in collaboration to develop events and seminars to support you. Let us know how we can help and register your interest for future events. Email [email protected].

Judith’s Life after Lockdown seminars in September for free – register at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/life-after-lockdown-planning-your-future-tickets-118150951677, See www.timeofyourlife.me.uk for more information. Part one of this interview can be viewed here.

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