The government needs to do more to help older people over the age of 50 remain in employment, an independent think tank says ahead of the publication of a major new report.
A nine-month investigation by Resolution Foundation found that the number of older people leaving employment prematurely, due to ill-health or caring responsibilities, has reached record highs.
Resolution Foundation says helping older people stay in work longer should be at the centre of the Government’s “ambitious full employment targets”, adding that many employers have already reaped the benefits of holding on to more experienced workers.
The report suggests that with improved support and greater focus on under-performing areas of the UK, employment levels among 50-64 year olds could be increased by around 920,000 over the course of this parliament, whilst employment among 65-69 year olds could be boosted by 240,000.
Merseyside, Wales, Northern Ireland and inner London currently have the lowest employment rates for 50-64 year olds. Meanwhile, the South East and East of England are among the highest performing areas.
The report recommends that the right to Statutory Sick Pay should be extended beyond six months for workers over the age of 50, allowing them more time to return to work following a period of ill-health. Similar rights should also be given to those who need to take time off for caring responsibilities, the report says.
Resolution Foundation says that these recommendations would help keep employers in touch with their staff, whilst also reducing the number of older people leaving the labour market altogether.
The think tank also calls for a new focus on “high quality part-time work”. This, they claim, would help to keep older people in the labour force for longer.
Laura Gardiner, Senior Policy Analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Rising employment among older workers has been one of Britain’s biggest labour market successes of recent years.
“This jobs phenomenon has been driven by a number of factors, including the rising State Pension Age, abolition of the default retirement age and better flexible working practices.
“But we can do far more to boost employment among older workers, in particular by helping them to stay in work when they take on caring responsibilities or have to adjust to ill-health.
“Many employers already see the benefits of holding on to these experienced members of staff but this attitude needs to spread throughout the labour market.
“Government policy interventions, such as an extension of rights to return to work, can help foster this change in attitudes towards older workers.
“Providing such support could help over a million older workers into jobs, and set the government on course to meet its ambitious full employment target.”