workingwise.co.uk caught up with one of the workers we spoke to during the pandemic who was struggling to find a job.
In 2021, workingwise.co.uk interviewed several older workers who were struggling to get a job amid the pandemic. Many blamed ageism in the recruitment process for making that process harder and our survey for National Older Workers Week showed this was a widespread perception. We are now revisiting those interviewees to see where they are now.
One is Simon Lukes who, in late 2021, had been out of work since September 2018 and had just been offered a part-time temporary contract, covering someone’s maternity leave.
He felt that his age had definitely been a factor in not getting him on some shortlists or not getting interviews, saying that he noticed changes in tone and body language when some recruiters saw how old he was at the time – 64.
One area of prejudice he picked out was in terms of attitudes to his ability to work on computers. This was despite the fact that a lot of his background centred on IT.
Simon, from East London, did a degree in electronics and physics and was initially an engineer before moving into housing and then to community development. In 2002 he had to take time out due to a cancer diagnosis. He returned to work in 2005 to a role as manager within a national mental health charity, which he continued until redundancy.
Simon did the maternity cover job and really enjoyed it. Before it ended he started looking for a permanent role and says it was much easier looking for the position of being in a job. “It made a big difference,” he says. Just a few months later he got his current role, which he has been in for around a year. He now works as a legacy administrator for a hospice. His role involves dealing with incoming legacies from people who have left bequests to the hospice. This makes up around a third of the income of the charity which runs the hospice. Simon says it pays reasonably well and is topped up with benefits. He works three days a week and, although the commute is quite long, he can work from home regularly.
One slight regret is that it doesn’t use all his skills, particularly his people skills – it’s more a paper-based role – or his IT ones and he says he feels these may be suffering from a “skills atrophy”. However, he does use his IT skills in the voluntary work he continues to do, although it is not as much as he used to do. “A big issue for me is how seriously I consider that loss of skill, given that this job could be the last job I have,” he says. But he is a pragmatist and says he likes working for a worthy cause and that there are many advantages.
Financially he is better off. During the first part of the pandemic, Simon helped set up a food bank at a community centre, did shopping for people who couldn’t leave their homes and helped to set up a support group on Whatsapp and to run a support hub at his local community centre so people were not so isolated. He also called around to check in on people in the community who might not have Whatsapp. Yet at one point he found himself having to use food banks too.
He still worries about his finances, particularly when it comes to what he calls ‘luxuries’ like buying new shoes. He is worried about dental work he needs which he says will cost an arm and a leg. “Money is a worry, but I’m not the only one worrying at the current time,” he says.
On the bright side, he has been told that he is eligible for the full state pension of just over £200 a week. In 2021 he had thought retirement would not be an option because of his work history. Now he is mulling over whether he should take his state pension later this year or defer it while he is working so he will get more later. “It’s a nice conundrum to have,” he says.