Older workers not ready to hit the beach yet, says report

Many employees want to work past retirement - if only employers encouraged it, says new research.

by
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The report, from the Institute of Employment Studies and the Policy Studies Institute, found that unless employees suggest staying on past retirement age, employers tend to assume that they don’t want to. And presumably employees often don’t ask for fear of rejection – no-one like to be told they are past it after all.

And yet as the population ages, the economic rationale for working on past retirement age becomes ever more pressing for employer and employee alike. To say nothing of the benefits of age diversity in the workplace – wisdom, experience, a lifetime of knowledge, that kind of thing.

The problem is compounded by employers’ reluctance to raise the issue, often stemming from unwillingness to set a precedent that all workers may then come to expect. Others avoid discussing age with employees, for fear of causing offence.

Yet the report – based on 40 recent employer interviews plus some appropriately ‘mature’ stats from way back in 2004 - also suggests that the prevailing attitude amongst employers is positive. If someone is willing and able to work past retirement age should be no bar.

 Employers are thus happy to consider individual cases, since they see older workers as more likely to be loyal and reliable. But they are wary of blanket policy statements, as they want to retain a say in who stays and who goes - not unreasonably.

Helen Barnes at the IES points out that it’s not just employers who are afraid to talk about age. She said ‘almost all employers seem willing to consider modifications to the workplace to retain older workers on a case by case basis; but too often employees are also reluctant to raise the issue’. This may be, she added, because employers’ perceived attitudes to age discourage those approaching retirement from asking whether they can work longer. 

 So what’s to be done? If both parties wait nervously to be asked, like teenagers at a school disco, then valuable workers may continue to retire despite neither company nor employee desiring it.

Here at MT, we think the onus is generally on employers to get the ball rolling. But anyone who is approaching retirement age and doesn’t want to don pipe and slippers just yet should not be afraid of making their own enquiries, either. If you don’t ask, you don’t get…

 

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Older workers not ready to hit the beach yet, says report

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