Older workers are feeling pressured to retire early

Age discrimination should be old news, but many employees are feeling forced out of work prematurely.

by Rebecca Smith
Last Updated: 07 Apr 2016

The lure of retirement might be an enticing prospect for some, but most would like to have control of deciding when that happens. So it’s a little concerning that a new report has found many older workers are feeling pressured to leave the workforce earlier than they would like. 

Recruiter Randstad polled 2,001 British adults and three quarters said they felt societal influence to leave work earlier than they intended (32% said it was ‘significant’ pressure). Some 28% didn't think they'd be wanted in the workforce when older.

Randstad UK’s CEO Mark Bull said: ‘The baby-boomers are nearing retirement and we could have a huge skills shortage on our hands if these senior, established staff exist the workforce en masse.’

He thinks employers ‘now more than ever’ should hold onto their high performers ‘as tightly as they can, as it can take a long time to fill the gap left by senior staff when they leave’.

It’s a contrast to last summer's report from the Resolution Foundation that reported older workers were staying in jobs longer, causing some agitation alongside more young people in ‘insecure’ (part-time, temporary or low-paid) work.

That sentiment is still palpable in the workplace though – a regional breakdown found workers in Belfast were most likely to retire early because of pressure (36.8% of respondents). It had the lowest employment rate of any region considered and notably high levels of youth unemployment, so the correlation there isn’t too difficult to spot.

MPs have just launched a major inquiry into 'inter-generational fairness' to explore fears that the British state pension and welfare system is unfairly favouring pensioners at the expense of younger workers. Describing it as its biggest inquiry of the year, the Commons Work and Pensions Committee is to investigate whether policies like the 'triple lock' on pensions to protect pensioners' incomes against inflation, are contributing to the growing disparity in wealth between generations. That comes after an official report, published 'in error' late last year, estimated that the government is spending an extra £6bn a year on the triple lock policy.

Randstad's report though, flags up a different warning sign – a far larger proportion of those who joined the workforce before 1975 said they felt as if they wouldn't be wanted in the workforce when older, compared to those who started work after that year. 

So what can be done to combat this? Some 40% said more flexible conditions would make them more likely to delay their depature, while a phased approach to retirement – allowing employees to continue with a reduced workload- could do the same. 

By 2022, the number of people in the workforce aged 50 to state pension age is expected to rise to 13.8m (up 3.7m), so planning for this seems a no-brainer. As so many feel external pressure to retire early, there’s also the underlying issue of a change in attitude within the workplace, but often that’s easier said than done.

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