In part two of our review of 2020, we cover the turbulent period from July to December.
The six months from July were turbulent, with many Government announcements on Covid, including extensions of the Self Employment Income Protection and furlough schemes and national and local lockdowns.
In July, Age UK called on the Government to introduce a furlough-type system for vulnerable older workers who may not feel able to return safely to the workplace in August. And a new survey from Phoenix Group showed 7.4m carers feel their jobs are at risk if their caring responsibilities increase as a result of the coronavirus. Meanwhile, analysis by Rest Less showed the over 65s have seen the biggest percentage drop in the average number of hours worked than any other age group since the coronavirus pandemic.
As 18% of over 50’s say Covid could affect their retirement plans, campaigners warned that the Government’s focus on youth unemployment ignores the threat to older workers from unemployment and early retirement. Meanwhile, it was confirmed that IR35 legislation for the private sector will come into effect next year and the Office for National Statistics showed the pensions gap between men and women is widening.
As figures show the over 50s make up nearly half of all self employed people, there was a warning about long-term unemployment for over 50s.
A report from the Resolution Foundation highlighted those who are missing out due to the pension auto-enrolment scheme and calls for greater regulation of those areas of the economy most affected. Meanwhile, the International Longevity Centre UK [ILC] launched a new international programme of work to identify the challenges and innovations to respond to an ageing workforce and TUC Wales launched a toolkit on older workers which aims to help union representatives tackle age discrimination at work and encourage more age-friendly workplaces. The Government also announced the extension of its Access to Work scheme meaning people working from home or in the workplace with a disability will be eligible for extra help, including support for special equipment, travel costs and mental health.
A study showed Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people aged 50-70 are more likely to be in the poorest fifth of the population in England compared with White people and Black people are living on an average of £100 less a week compared to White people. And a report showed how a lack of social care services was adversely affecting working carers.
September saw a report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies published which showed one in eight older workers have changed their retirement plans as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, with 8% planning to retire later and 5% planning to retire earlier.
The Government announced a package of measures designed to boost retraining in the wake of Covid-19 as new figures from the DWP showed an increase in economic inactivity among older workers which is not explained by caring responsibilities or sickness. And as a study showed older workers were less positive about lockdown working, another revealed a big rise in mental health issues for the self employed.
In October, as the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced changes to the Job Support Scheme and Self Employment Income Support Scheme from November in order to help those affected by Covid-19, IPSE hit out at “grossly unfair” support scheme for the unemployed. As the state pension age rose to 66, International Longevity Centre UK said G20 governments should commit to an Ageing Society New Deal and invest more in preventative health, supporting older workers and reducing avoidable barriers to spending.
Another report from the International Longevity Centre revealed that people aged 65 and over spend more time volunteering and caring than any other age group, with the average contribution across Europe amounting to 124 hours per person per year. Meanwhile, an IPSOS Mori poll showed the majority of employers don’t acknowledge the impact of the menopause at work and a report showed older people are less likely to take up employer financial advice.
As unemployment rises by a third among older workers since pandemic, it was reported that Covid is leading many to consider leaving self employment.
Amid calls for more support to boost financial literacy and advice, a report warned that Generation X faces a pensions disaster. Meanwhile, the Government announced plans to extend the suspension of the Minimum Income Floor [MIF] for Universal Credit which, campaigners believe, could have prevented many self employed people from getting benefits over the next months. A report showed that the gender pension gap is closing, but said women still save a lot less than men.
In December, analysis by Rest Less found women face an increasing gender pay gap as they get older due to various factors, including reduced hours or career breaks for caring responsibilities. Another report by Rest Less showed the number of redundancies amongst people aged in their 60s has nearly tripled in the last quarter.
* Read part one of our review here.