review of 2020 part one looks back at a turbulent year, charting the main developments for older workers in the first half of 2020.

Older woman works at laptop with facemask on


In January, a banker won his case for age discrimination and unfair dismissal in a case which was said to have important ramifications for employers.

Niels Kirk claimed unfair dismissal, direct and indirect age discrimination, age discrimination harassment and age discrimination victimisation against his former employer Citibank in the case which was heard at East London Employment Tribunal. Kirk was made redundant from his role as chairman and managing director of Citibank’s energy and natural resources division for Europe Middle East and Africa in 2017 following a restructure. He claimed there was a culture of older managers making way for younger ones at the bank and that he was told by a senior manager that he was “old and set in his ways”.

In February the Centre for Ageing Better, Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the Department of Work & Pensions announced plans for the ‘Greater Manchester Employment Support for Over-50s’ pilot programme to improve support models for older people and help them get back to work. Meanwhile a report from the All Party Parliamentary Group for Longevity found people develop long-term ill health earlier than previously thought. It said men on average are being diagnosed with their first significant long-term condition at 56 and women at 55 – leading to nearly 10 years longer in poor health for women and seven years for men. As a result, the report says, women may live for 29 years in poor health and men for 23 years, an increase of 50% for women and 42% for men.

And a report from LinkedIn found age is a significant barrier to career progression and businesses need to hire at both ends of the age spectrum and to promote collaboration and reverse mentorship among their workforce.

In March, the month of the national lockdown and the announcement of the furlough and Self Employment Income Protection schemes, a report on the damaging nature of age-based stereotypes from the Centre for Ageing Better said older workers are seen as having lower levels of performance, less ability to learn, and being more costly than younger workers. Meanwhile Rest Less pointed out that changes in pensions and other factors meant the UK has seen a “seismic shift” in the last decade with more women aged 60-64 in work than not for the first time, with profound implications for the economy and for women in later life

In April, academics highlighted the dangers of a general release from lockdown and suggested that a rolling release from lockdown based on age was the way to reduce deaths. And a study by Carers UK found 70 per cent of unpaid carers in the UK were having to provide more care for their loved ones during the coronavirus outbreak and 55 per cent feel overwhelmed and near burnout.

Meanwhile, research by IPSE showed over 50s and mothers were the fastest-growing groups of freelancers over the last year and therefore were among the most likely to miss out on government self-employed support because they went into freelancing too recently. There were increasing concerns about some self-employed people, for instance, directors of limited companies, missing out on Covid support.

In May, as changes were announced to the furlough scheme and free online courses were launched, the Government published guidance on the emergence from lockdown. A report from PwC found younger and older workers were the most likely to have had their work stopped by employers temporarily, including being furloughed, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, an attempt to delay the roll-out of IR35 tax legislation for the self employed to the private sector was defeated in Parliament when the Finance Bill was approved.

In June, a study by the Centre for Ageing Better found the Covid-19 crisis could lead to a generation of people in their 50s and 60s entering retirement in poor health and without enough money to support themselves.

A survey from Gransnet found some grandparents were facing increasing pressure to provide childcare for their grandchildren, including those who have underlying health conditions. A study by the University of Sheffield for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found around one in four carers are considering leaving their job because of the difficulties of combining work and care. It calls on employers to provide support. Carers UK estimated that there were 4.5 million new unpaid carers due to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, statistics from the Office for National Statistics found the traditional working age population increased at a slower rate than all other age groups while the fastest growing population was aged 65 and over. Analysis by Rest Less finds the number of Universal Credit claims made by the over 50s more than doubled in May compared with March, rising from 304,000 to nearly 660,000 in just two months.

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