Understanding the great unretirement

In the UK, there are now more people aged 50 and older in work or looking for work than there were at the start of 2020 – and this increase is a result of people returning to work from retirement rather than people choosing to remain in work longer.

A recent survey of 12,000 people aged 50 to 70 years old who were not currently looking for work revealed that a third of those aged 50-64, and one in 10 of those aged 65 and older, said they would consider doing so. Many people are finding that their retirement income is no longer sufficient to cover their living costs – or that they need to wait longer before they can retire. In the UK, with one of the lowest state pensions in Europe, this issue is especially acute.

People face a number of issues when choosing to remain at work or re-enter the workforce past retirement age. The first is discrimination: most workplaces expect people to retire at 65, with many employees, especially women, finding that discrimination hampers their career progress and job security after the age of 50. Since women are the most likely to need to top up their pensions due to the impact of career breaks and part time working, this puts them at a significant disadvantage. Another issue is the availability of suitable jobs. People re-entering the workforce after retirement may want more flexible options – hard to do given that in 2022, the number of part time jobs fell by 328,000. With volatile financial conditions ahead, what can employers do to support people during the great unretirement?

Tackle discrimination – Age discrimination in the workplace is often subtle, so you need to do some work to understand when, where and how it is occurring. Start by finding out how many over-55s are working in your organisation, the gender makeup of this group, as well as looking at how they compare against other age groups for progression, recognition, hiring and redundancy. This will help you gauge how older workers are treated within your organisation and where you might need to offer support.

Create opportunities – Get your talent teams to think about how your organisation could benefit from contributions by older workers. Where do you have space for part-time roles? Employers often consider younger people when looking for temporary or contract staff, but might older workers be equally suited to these roles? Could “unretired” industry experts help boost the value delivered by your early careers programme?

Educate – One of the reasons for “unretirement” is that people’s retirement planning wasn’t as robust as they’d hoped or was based on outdated assumptions about longevity and lifestyle. Employers can take steps to help prepare employees of all ages and life stages for the future by providing access to financial planning tools and educational resources to help them understand what they need.

This Finacial Times article discusses adapting your leadership for the multi-generational workforce further.