There’s a large group of workers who feel overlooked by potential employers. They’re the over 50s in the workforce who believe that their age is putting the brakes on their career. Worryingly, this means UK businesses are at risk of losing out on their invaluable experience, and older workers’ pension pots are missing out on vital contributions.

According to our recent research, three million job seekers over 501 believe their age has made employers less likely to hire them. That’s a huge group of valuable workers who are facing a hurdle in their hunt to find work. And the number only increases for the over 60s.

More people are working into later life

34% of over 55s are still in some form of work – that’s around 3.3 million employees. And instead of a hard stop into retirement, we’re seeing a shift into a ‘phased retirement’. Almost half of all employees aged 55+ expect they’ll continue working, but reduce the number of hours they work – some are looking for a less stressful role, while others simply can’t afford to retire fully.

Lorna Shah, Managing Director of Legal & General Retail, explains:

“The number of pre-retirees considering a gradual or phased move into full retirement shows how much the perception of later life has changed in recent years. However people choose to approach retirement, it’s important they see it as something that should be actively managed, and not something they already feel they are ‘in’ or have ‘done’.”

But no one said it was going to be easy. Age discrimination is a frustrating fact of life for many over 50s seeking employment – more than half (52%) felt their age put them at a significant disadvantage. Some, such as Cheryl, found the process too much and gave up on job seeking altogether. After being made redundant in her early 60s, Cheryl struggled to find a new role, despite applying for 30 jobs a week. It wasn’t the first time she had faced difficulties in getting a job as an older worker either. A decade earlier she arrived at an interview, only to be told by her interviewers that they hadn’t realised “how old she was”.

According to Stuart Lewis, Founder of Rest Less, a website that helps over 50s look for work: “We hear from our members on a daily basis about the challenges they face when it comes to age discrimination. Despite age being a legally protected characteristic, discrimination on these grounds is all too common.”

The effects of redundancy

Redundancy can affect us at any stage of life but when it happens later in our working lives, it can have a much bigger impact than for those just starting out in their career. More than one in 10 over 50s have left the workforce in the past five years as a result of redundancy. And it’s having a significant impact on their retirement plans, with less going into their pension pot the more time they spend out of work.


Support for getting a job over 50

There’s a great deal you can do to help your possible next boss see past the age gap and appreciate your skills and experience. Feeling ‘overqualified’ and more expensive than their younger counterparts was a point raised by many job seekers in their 50s and 60s, but it’s worth embracing your age and presenting it as an opportunity. A wealth of experience is worth its weight in gold, an important hiring factor which employers often overlook.

But being realistic about the challenges many of us face is also important. Common stereotypes include older workers being reluctant to learn new technology and having poorer IT skills. Understanding the discrimination goggles being worn on the other side of the desk can help you target your CV and interview accordingly. You’ll need to be able to flag up the ways in which you don’t fit the typecasting.

Refreshing your skills

If you do find your CV’s lacking the skills required for the roles you’re seeking, you might find taking a course a useful move. That’s what Jacky, one of our Rewirement podcast guests, did. Even if you choose a topic that’s unrelated to work, it demonstrates a willingness and capacity to learn that can be attractive to an employer. And there’s the added personal benefit that firing those neurons is as important in maintaining your mental health in later life as exercising is for your heart. If you’re feeling uninspired, you can pick up some ideas at the Rest Less website.

Our sources

1Over 50s in the labour market: a report for Legal & General. Centre for Economics and Business. 2021

Research was carried out online by Opinium Research amongst 4,000 UK adults between 14th – 20th October 2022. The results are weighted to nationally representative criteria.

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