Workingwise.co.uk’s annual survey was published for National Older Workers Week and...read more
workingwise.co.uk’s look-back at the main news developments in 2022 shows a gradually increasing concern about economic inactivity levels in older workers.
2022 has been a big year for older workers with increasing attention focused on the missing workers who dropped out of the workplace during the Covid period, particularly towards the end of the year.
The first four months showed a growing interest in the menopause and gender-related pension issues as well as evolving demographics and pension changes.
In the month in which WMPeople.co.uk celebrated its Top Employer Awards and QA scooped Best for Older Workers, the news focused on health, demographic changes and the impact on retirement.
In terms of general demographic issues, a report by the Resolution Foundation think tank and the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics found younger workers are more mobile in terms of changing occupations than older workers, but when older workers do change occupations they are more likely to move to occupations with significantly different tasks.
Meanwhile, research published by the International Longevity Centre-UK estimated the UK economy could see a shortfall of 2.6 million workers by 2030 – almost twice the workforce of the NHS – as a result of population ageing, Covid and Brexit.
When it comes to retirement, in the month that insurance firm Aviva found that 60 is the most popular age for early retirement, the International Longevity Centre said the State Pension Age may need to rise faster than planned to ensure fiscal sustainability, support intergenerational fairness and keep up with increases in life expectancy.
Meanwhile, a study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies said the latest increase in the state pension age to 66 has significantly boosted the employment of both men and women, particularly those on lower incomes, although most people have already retired by this point.
And a Parliamentary committee labelled the Department for Work & Pensions’ handling of pensions errors a “shameful shambles”. The DWP estimates it has underpaid 134,000 pensioners, mostly women, over £1 billion of their State Pension entitlement, with some of the errors dating as far back as 1985.
In menopause news, women going through the menopause are less likely to apply for a promotion, while a lack of support in the workplace can hamper their career progression and make it more likely they retire early, according to two surveys by the Fawcett Society and Koru Kids respectively.
Meanwhile, in general health news, the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development highlighted that the number of people in the UK with a long-term health condition is increasing so employers need a clear plan to give employees the best chance of fulfilling their potential.
February was dominated by health-related stories and, in the lead-up to International Women’s Day in March, concerns about gender differences when it comes to pay and pensions.
In health news, TUC analysis found the number of older workers who have left the labour market due to sickness and ill health (97,000) is nearly twice the rate of those who have retired (50,000) during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, as ONS figures showed long-term ill health has overtaken studying as the most common reason for economic inactivity, especially among older people, analysis by the IPPR think tank found that older and poorer workers are the most likely to miss out on statutory sick pay and warned that low rates of pay and limited eligibility could make it increasingly difficult for people to self-isolate and keep the spread of infection down.
In other Covid-related news, data from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and Simplyhealth found almost half (46%) of organisations have employees who have experienced long Covid in the last 12 months.
And research uncovered the problems faced by cancer patients returning to work. The mental health impact of cancer is worse than the physical health one for many working-age patients, with the majority of saying they feel guilty about taking time off work for vital treatment and worrying that they are a burden to their colleagues, according to the study by Stephen Bevan from the Institute for Employment Studies and Barbara Wilson of Working With Cancer.
In menopause news, most women do not tell anyone at work that they are going through the menopause despite the vast majority finding that symptoms impact how they feel at work, according to a Women and Equalities Committee survey.
And in gender-related news, online pension provider PensionBee found men underestimate the impact of the social and economic pressures felt by women that contribute to them retiring years before their male counterparts. Separate analysis by the provider found men aged 64 today have accumulated £439,581 in pension savings, on average – £139,451 more than their female counterparts.
In a month when the gender pension gap came under scrutiny, there was more discussion about economic inactivity and how policies aimed at improving employee health could help.
When it comes to gender-related issues, the Prospect union highlighted that women are struggling to keep up with men in the UK when it comes to saving for their retirement, with the latest figures showing the gender pension gap stands at 37.9%.
And almost three quarters (72%) of businesses do not have a menopause policy and only 13% of organisations with a high representation of women in their workforce have one, according to a survey by law firm Irwin Mitchell.
In demographic news, analysis of ONS figures showed there were 550K fewer people aged over 50 in the labour market than before the crisis began – the largest fall over a two year period in at least 30 years while a CIPD report found more flexible working, early and ongoing support for health and wellbeing and better training options would all help older workers to stay in and thrive in work longer.
In retirement news, nearly half of over 50s regret not saving into their pension sooner and almost two thirds wish they had contributed more into their retirement savings at an earlier stage, according to a survey by Aviva.
In other news, a Brazilian start-up which wants to see CVs “retired” won an international future of work award. Labora Tech, a Brazilian start-up that matches workers of all ages to jobs and helps them reskill, was the winner of the international Work for tomorrow competition.
And Boots announced that it would cover the cost of employees’ HRT prescriptions as part of its ongoing support for women going through the menopause. The policy sits alongside menopause at work guidance for line managers, including e-learning modules designed to raise awareness and break down barriers associated with the transition, and a menopause network where employees can learn more about the menopause, share experiences and offer confidential connection and support.
Health and the menopause continue to dominate the news when it comes to older workers.
In health news, a report from the IPPR think tank and health analytics company Lane, Clark & Peacock found more than a million workers are missing from the workforce compared to the pre-pandemic trend and about 400,000 of these are no longer working because of health factors, such as long Covid, disruption to healthcare and declining mental health.
The UCL Institute of Health Equity in partnership with Legal & General launched The Business of Health Equity: The Marmot Review for Industry, which sets out three ways that business can improve people’s lives by reducing health inequality. They are promoting the health of employees through pay and benefits, hours and job security and conditions of work; supporting the health of clients, customers and shareholders through products and services they provide and investments they make; and influencing the health of individuals in the communities through investment influence, procurement and supply networks.
Meanwhile, the Health and Wellbeing at Work 2022 report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and Simplyhealth states that wellbeing and mental health are beginning to slip down the business agenda despite the fact that organisations are still dealing with the fallout from Covid-19 and it remains an on-going concern for workers.
In menopause news, employers including AstraZeneca, BBC, Royal Mail, Co-op, and TSB are among 600 organisations who have signed up to the Menopause Workplace Pledge. The campaign, run by the Wellbeing of Women charity, launched six months earlier and is raising awareness of the menopause as a workplace issue.
In self-employment news, insurer and IR35 specialist, Kingsbridge Contractor Insurance claimed over 70% of businesses and recruiters had seen a reduction in their limited company Personal Service Company contractor workforce over the last year, according to a new survey which marks a year since IR35 tax legislation was extended to the private sector.
Meanwhile, HMRC lost an appeal on one of its main grounds for contesting an IR35 ruling. The ruling could have significant implications for freelancers who were worried that HMRC was seeking to narrow the scope for what counts as freelance work rather than disguised employment.
When it comes to ageism, a study by Ian Burn from the University of Liverpool and Daniel Firoozi, Daniel Ladd and David Neumark from the University of California Irvine found advertisements for jobs that include subtle ageist stereotypes related to physical ability, communications skills or technological aptitude put older workers off from applying.
In employment news, unemployment fell to 3.8% while vacancies rose to a new record of 1,288,000, meaning that for the first time in at least 50 years, there are now as many vacancies as there are unemployed people. The vacancies problem is in part fuelled by the continued rise in economic inactivity, which particularly affects older people and those with long-term health issues. The economic inactivity rate was up 0.2 percentage points to 21.4% in December 2021 to February 2022 on the previous quarter.
Meanwhile, analysis shows economic inactivity levels amongst men aged 50-64 in December 2021 to February 2022 were the highest since records began.
In pensions news, the percentage of people paying into workplace pensions increased slightly in the last year – up to 79% in 2021 from 78% in 2020, according to a report from the Office for National Statistics.