Jeremy Hunt said his daughter said budget meeting was 'a pantomime'
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Express.co.uk has been told that many organisations are unwilling to employ those aged over 50. This week, Jeremy Hunt said his new Budget hopes to get the over-50s back to work in a bid to fill the one million vacancies plaguing the workforce. However, the plans aimed at targeting those the Chancellor describes as “experienced” rather than “older” were slammed by some experts, who believe that the push to get them to retrain through the likes of “returnships” and boot camps would only appeal to a minority. Research also suggests over-50s who are willing to head back to the office are struggling to return to work because they are being overlooked by employers due to their age.
Since the pandemic, more than half a million people have not returned to work. According to official Government statistics, the main reason why jobs are currently harder to fill is due to early retirement.
During his Budget announcement, Mr Hunt said: “We had half a million people who left the labour force during the lockdowns. That’s an effect you haven’t seen in other countries and that’s why I’ve announced the measures I’ve announced today to encourage people back to work.”
The Chancellor is offering the over-50s “returnships” which are shorter than the typical apprenticeships undertaken predominantly by school leavers. This scheme will “focus on flexibility” while “taking previous experience into account, shortening the length of time they have to be in training”.
However, research from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) suggests that needing to reskill is not the sole issue when it comes to those over-50s trying to return to work. It found that age discrimination was a “persistent issue” in the workforce.
The CMI, which focuses on management and leadership, surveyed more than 1,000 managers currently working in UK businesses and public services at the end of October.
The survey revealed that just 42 percent were open “to a large extent” to hiring those aged between 50 and 64. Whereas, 74 percent of managers were open to the same extent to hiring those aged between 18 and 34.
It also found that just 18 percent of managers were “open to a large extent” to hiring people aged over 65.
This has had an impact on the confidence of those aged over 50 striving to find a job, such as Michael O’Reilly, of Bexhill, East Sussex, who spent decades working in the banking sector.
The 50-something told the BBC earlier this year that he is now struggling to secure a job with the “horrible” experience leaving him feeling as though his “usefulness has passed”.
One source, who works in the PR sector but did not wish to be named, told Express.co.uk: “In my view, it’s not simply reluctance, skills and finances which are holding over-50s back, it is the attitude of employing organisations that needs to shift.
“My friends over 50 find it really hard to get interviews and be considered for roles, either their experience is not valued or perhaps they are perceived to be inflexible, lack skills, [don’t] culturally fit with young workers or are too expensive. Suffice to say, it’s a complicated area that Hunt’s measures will only go some way to address, certainly, there is a wider picture at play too.”
Experts also said that flexibility and job adverts must change to accommodate the likes of those over 50. For example, many are carers for their parents, making it harder for them to undertake a regular nine-to-five job.
According to data collected by the over-50s community Rest Less, the number of those over 50 who receive a carer’s allowance has increased by 22 percent since before the pandemic. And according to the ONS, in England, the highest percentage of unpaid carers was in individuals aged between 55 and 59 years for females.
Dr Lindsey Zuloaga, the chief data scientist at HireVue, said in order to open access to vacancies to marginalised groups, companies and Government agencies must work to create fairer, more flexible interview and job assessment processes.
She said: “Even as they bemoan the skills gap, employers often unintentionally overlook people with disabilities or primary carers by limiting the days, times, and locations in which interviews are available.
“A person who is homebound can’t be expected to commute for interviews, and a parent balancing full-time employment with a child’s schedule is all but excluded from interviews during ‘normal office hours’.”
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But Martin Hathaway, managing director of the Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, told this publication that he welcomed the Budget’s initiative encouraging those in work to stay for longer.
Although he believes the new skills plan will not help those who have taken early retirement, he thinks it will help battle the stigma that it is too late to pursue a new venture.
Mr Hathaway said: “I don’t believe the uptake will be large from those who have already retired but it will definitely help those facing redundancy or looking to retrain in a new industry. Many over the age of 50 can often face a stigma that they are nearing the end of their working lives or that it is too late to try something new, which just isn’t the case. Look at the Chancellor using himself as a prime example.”
The 56-year-old Chancellor, when announcing the Budget on Wednesday, joked that after turning 50, he was “relegated” to the back benches for a quiet life but said he “decided to set an example by embarking on a new career in finance.”
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