The Centre for Ageing Better is calling on UK employers to ensure they have more age-friendly employment policies and practices, as a survey published today suggests thousands of organisations are unprepared for an ageing workforce. The findings are released today as the Women and Equalities Committee publishes a major new report concluding that the skills of over a million over 50s who want to work are being wasted because of discrimination, bias and outdated employment practices.

The committee states that the business case for an age-diverse workforce is clear but despite this, employers continue to organise workplaces around an outdated, inflexible model that no longer works. Over recent decades there has been a significant increase in the number of older workers, with over 50s now making up nearly a third (31%) of the entire UK workforce. This trend will only continue as the State Pension age rises. At the same time, there are fewer school leavers entering the jobs market.

However, in a survey of 500 UK employers commissioned by the Centre for Ageing Better, just one in five said that the ageing workforce is being discussed strategically in their workplace (20%), and a sizeable proportion – nearly a quarter (24%) – of employers think that their organisation is unprepared for this demographic change.

The survey also showed that one in five employers (20%) have faced challenges with managing age-diversity at work, including older workers feeling uncomfortable working under younger managers and vice versa (12% and 10% respectively). Despite this, only a third (33%) of employers said they provide support, training or guidance for managers on managing age diversity.

Currently around half of older workers leave the labour market prematurely – often because of a lack of support from their employer. Businesses who don’t act now to retain and recruit older workers will face a double skills shock – experienced staff leaving, and a shortage of younger candidates to replace them, the Centre for Ageing Better warns.

The Centre for Ageing Better is urging employers to adopt five age-friendly practices to ensure they are ready for the ageing workforce:

• Flexible flexibility – working arrangements that work for the employee as well as the employer
• Age-positive recruitment which doesn’t discriminate against older candidates
• Appropriate support for health at work, including workplace adjustments
• Equal opportunities for progression and development at all ages
• Age-inclusive workplace culture and line management

Patrick Thomson, Centre for Ageing Better’s lead on age-friendly employment, said: “The UK workforce is changing – and employers need to catch up. Improving policy and practice, tackling age bias and creating an age-friendly workplace culture is vital to ensuring that people can work for as long as they want to. Employers who don’t make these changes will be left behind. This matters for older workers, and younger workers, who mostly expect to work longer than their parents. Without changes to our workplaces, more and more of us will face worse working lives as we age.”